Friday, November 15, 2002

His Watchful Eye: German Christians During World War II

His Watchful Eye, Jack Cavanaugh's sequel to the Christy-Award winning While Mortals Sleep, begins three years after the first book ends, in the fall of 1943, and continues until the war's end in April 1945. This story has a decidedly darker tone. Though Hitler reigned in the first book, Berlin had not yet seen the devastation of war and harder times. Now young German men march through Russia, terrorizing peasants and slogging through winter mud. Berlin, too, is a bombed-out shell of its former greatness.

Josef Schumacher, the main character in the first book, has only a minor role now. Three years after his torture at Hadamar, where the Nazis cruelly experimented on his body, Josef is now a shell of a man, slowly dying. The young people he once pastored now take on primary roles, and we get a glimpse of life as experienced by Konrad, Lisette, and Ernst. Konrad quickly becomes disillusioned by the war in his infantry experiences on the Russian front, where his friend Neff soon dies. Ernst works as a research scientist, enjoys testing rockets and is acquainted with Von Braun. Lisette stays with Mady and Joseph, caring for several misfit, handicapped children at their "Ramah Cabin" in the countryside near Berlin. Konrad in particular changes his views, providing lots of angst (for the reader as well as other characters) as the former killer determines a new, non-violent approach. But just how far can or should he take his new vow to never again kill, when he also needs to protect his friends?

The 1989 Prologue story continues from the first book, tantalizing the reader with a few more clues to the characters' future fate. The prologue also makes more sense after reading the full novel -- which introduces more of the characters who will be reunited years later. Yet, though the intriguing, but short, 1989 story leaves a cliffhanger, His Watchful Eye appears to wrap things to a close. So a third book in this series appears uncertain. The combination of past events and the meeting at the Berlin Wall build strong curiosity, in any case. What happens next to our friends, after World War II and during those Cold War years in communist East Germany?

His Watchful Eye follows in the great style of Cavanaugh’s historical fiction, with an interesting and adventurous story supported by characters with strong friendships, and even some romance. The war without, and a personal, determined enemy keep the suspense building up toward a strong finale as Allied troops approach Berlin in the spring of 1945.

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