I’ve enjoyed three of Cathy Gohlke’s novels and am anxious to read Secrets She Kept, which releases in September. Read her answers below for a sense of why she’s one of my favorites.
I know you do extensive research for your novels and this is your second one that is set in Nazi Germany. What is it that intrigues you about that time period? What is it that we can learn?
It has fascinated, even frightened me that an entire nation was swept into a passion while persecuting an entire group of human beings. Why didn’t more Germans stand up to Hitler and his degrading Nuremberg laws? How did intelligent people step onto such slippery moral slopes, losing their moral and spiritual compass, ultimately losing their ability to stop the monster they’d enabled? Can such superior racist attitudes be prevented in the future, and what are the warning signs? Do we see them in our society? If the answer is yes, what can we, as individuals, do about that?
One of my favorite things about your writing is that your characters struggle with faith and mature in their understanding of God. What are the struggles in this book?
Secrets She Kept is my first time split novel.
Lieselotte, the young woman in Nazi Germany, needs love, acceptance and a purpose, but the cost for each of these is greater than she knows. When everything is taken from her, who will she be and what will she believe?
Hannah, Lieselotte’s grown daughter of the 1970s, longs for a connection with her estranged mother. Only after her mother’s death does she discover her family’s tragic wartime past. Hannah struggles to understand their actions and is desperate to redeem the tragedy of those actions. But, can any person redeem the deeds of another? Can one person forgive the deeds of another? Must children bear the consequences for the sins of their parents?
What makes this book different than your last book – and from most other books about Nazi Germany?
Saving Amelie probed the consequences of the eugenics movement popular in Nazi Germany and around the world. It also asked why the church and German people did not stand against Hitler.
Secrets She Kept explores questions of guilt, redemption and forgiveness of enemies as well as of those with whom we are in close relationship. It asks, how do survivors of war reclaim their lives? How do we respond when we, or someone in our family, have been responsible for something tragic—something that destroyed the life of another? These questions bring the aftermath and the results of war crimes and desperate acts home to us. Secrets She Kept reveals that the root causes of war do not disappear with victory or defeat, and when a nation is conquered, its ideologies do not necessarily or immediately change. Consequences of war cannot be swept away as if they do not exist—not in the current generation nor the next.