It happened at a lock-in—at Julie Hall’s church if I recall correctly. Why I went, I don’t know, but unless I’m combining two events in my mind, I remember it vividly. Cheryl and I went home with Julie after school and from there we went to Julie’s church.
They had songs, food, and games. But as the night wore on and people got sleepy, one of the leaders pulled out a movie projector—the old kind with the dual reels that scrolled and made flapping sounds if you didn’t get it attached correctly.
By that time, it had to be after nine o’clock, and I was pooped. I wasn’t that kid who could stay up all night and chat. I got up at six in the morning at the latest, and I needed a full nine hours of sleep. Still do. I just don’t have to get up at six anymore, so that’s when I go to bed now. Six in the morning.
Still, I pulled out my sleeping bag, got all comfy, and decided to fall asleep while I watched the movie. Because I’m no fool, I suspected that was the plan all along.
The haunting violin music combined with a piano for the introduction. Sepia pictures scrolled past. I was almost asleep by the time the swastika flag rippled over the screen and the queen of Holland began speaking on the BBC. Julie rolled over and whispered, “This is boring. Want to go play cards in the corner?”
I pretended to be enthralled so I could go to sleep in peace and without teasing. But then something happened. I went from pretending to being enthralled. The scenes on the screen that rippled every time one of the girls up front shifted gripped me.
And somehow I stayed awake. Through every pain-filled moment, every injustice, every criminal act against humanity.
At home, I asked my dad about it—the Holocaust, they’d called it. He told me everything I didn’t want to know. Told me everything I needed to know.
After that, I read many books, every encyclopedia, and watched every movie I could find.
You know, after 9/11, people have said over and over, “We will never forget.” I think that’s wise. Important, even.
However, considering WWII ended nearly seventy-five years ago, the number of survivors is dwindling rapidly every year. Will we remember then? When there is no one to speak to and hear, “Yes… I recall that well…”?
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2 Simple Reasons This Complex Book Is a New Favorite
I knew, the moment I read the synopsis, that I had to request a review copy of The Medallion. Anything inspired by Irene Sandler’s heroic attempts to save the children in Poland belongs on my shelf.
When the publisher sent me a free review copy, it took every bit of self-control not to set aside what I was already reading and open the pages of what is a beautiful book. However, the day came. Time to read.
This is a complex and heart-rending book. The characters and situations that play out on the page come to life in ways we wish the wouldn’t—they didn’t. Knowing that many elements and some characters are based on real people who lived and suffered during those years only adds to the richness of the story.
It’s strange. I want to complain about a few things—the slowness of some sections or the angles from which the author chose to tell a story. My mind screams she could have done this differently or that.
But the more I think of it, the more I realize that there is greater depth to this story than I realized while I read it. Because you see, that slowness tells a story in itself. If it’s slow for me to read some parts, how much slower would it have been to live them.
I truly believe that Gohlke deliberately paced this book exactly as it should be.
After all, you’d expect the second half, ramping up to a climax and after the war is over—you’d expect that to be faster paced.
But everything I’ve read about the war says that the years after were just as hard as the ones during. The difference was that there was hope again—that faith was easier to cling to. Her pacing was, in retrospect, brilliant.
And those characters? The ones I wanted to know deeper?
I now thank Ms. Gohlke for not giving more of them. My heart is already shredded in irreparable tatters at my feet. I couldn’t take more. And I think she knew that.
This isn’t your “overcoming all odds” WWII story. This is your, “God was with them—even in their worst moments and tragedies” story. In The Medallion, you won’t find the ending you crave as much as you will discover Who holds the endings in His hands and how He weaves them into beauty that we can’t see. Not yet.
Brilliantly written, powerfully shown, heart-rendingly realistic. And it landed on my top books of 2019 list by the end of the third chapter.
It’s a new favorite of mine for two simple reasons.
First, I don’t know how you could read this book without clinging a little closer to the Lord. Second, because I believe works like this will help us do that thing I think is so important. It helps us never to forget.
The Medallion is on tour with Celebrate Lit.
About the Book
Book: The Medallion
Author: Cathy Gohlke
Genre: Historical Fiction (World War II)
Release date: June 4, 2019
For fans of bestselling World War II fiction like Sarah’s Key and The Nightingale comes an illuminating tale of courage, sacrifice, and survival, about two couples whose lives are ravaged by Hitler’s mad war yet eventually redeemed through the fate of one little girl.
Seemingly overnight, the German blitzkrieg of Warsaw in 1939 turns its streets to a war zone and shatters the life of each citizen—Polish, Jewish, or otherwise.
Sophie Kumiega, a British bride working in the city’s library, awaits news of her husband, Janek, recently deployed with the Polish Air Force. Though Sophie is determined that she and the baby in her womb will stay safe, the days ahead will draw her into the plight of those around her, compelling her to help, whatever the danger.
Rosa and Itzhak Dunovich never imagined they would welcome their longed-for first child in the Jewish ghetto, or that they would let anything tear their family apart. But as daily atrocities intensify, Rosa soon faces a terrifying reality: to save their daughter’s life, she must send her into hiding. Her only hope of finding her after the war—if any of them survive—is a medallion she cuts in half and places around her neck.
Inspired by true events of Poland’s darkest days and brightest heroes, The Medallion paints a stunning portrait of war and its aftermath, daring us to believe that when all seems lost, God can make a way forward.
About the Author
Three-time Christy and two-time Carol and INSPY Award-winning and bestselling author Cathy Gohlke writes novels steeped with inspirational lessons, speaking of world and life events through the lens of history.
She champions the battle against oppression, celebrating the freedom found only in Christ. Cathy has worked as a school librarian, drama director, and director of children’s and education ministries.
When not traveling to historic sites for research, she, her husband, and their dog, Reilly, divide their time between northern Virginia and the Jersey Shore, enjoying time with their grown children and grandchildren. Visit her website at www.cathygohlke.com and find her on Facebook at CathyGohlkeBooks.
More from Cathy
Every story begins with a journey. Sharing that journey is twice the joy.
The Medallion was inspired by two true stories—the first was the WWII account of Itzhak Dugin and his Jewish family, persecuted in Lithuania. Their heart-wrenching story made world news when the tunnel from which Itzhak escaped the Nazis was discovered using modern technology.
The second was the story of Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic social worker within egota (an underground Polish Council to Aid Jews), who developed a network to rescue children. Despite terrible risks, they smuggled 2500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto and certain death at the hands of the Nazis, then hid them in Polish homes, convents, churches and hospitals until the end of the war.
Approximately 2,000 of those children were found after the war. Theories abound regarding the whereabouts of those missing. I couldn’t help but wonder, and imagine: What became of those 400 to 500 missing children? What became of one?
Set in WWII Poland and post-war England, The Medallion is a story of courage, sacrifice, love, forgiveness and redemption.
Christian Bookaholic, June 22
Carla Loves To Read, June 22
The Power of Words, June 23
Where Crisis & Christ Collide, June 23
Mary Hake, June 23
janicesbookreviews, June 23
Where Faith and Books Meet, June 24
By The Book, June 24
For Him and My Family, June 24
A Reader’s Brain, June 24
All-of-a-kind Mom, June 25
Through the Fire Blogs, June 25
Retrospective Spines, June 25
Inklings and notions, June 25
Remembrancy, June 26
Lis Loves Reading , June 26
The Becca Files, June 26
Genesis 5020, June 27
Reader’s Cozy Corner, June 27
Connect in Fiction, June 27
Bigreadersite, June 28
Maureen’s Musings, June 28
Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, June 28
Blossoms and Blessings, June 29
For the Love of Literature, June 29
Spoken from the Heart, June 29
Inspired by fiction, June 30
Have A Wonderful Day, June 30
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, June 30
Inspiration Clothesline, July 1
Connie’s History Classroom, July 1
Simple Harvest Reads, July 1 (Guest Post from Mindy Houng)
Just the Write Escape, July 2
Seasons of Opportunities, July 2
Pause for Tales, July 2
As He Leads is Joy, July 3
To Everything A Season, July 3
Hallie Reads, July 3
A Good Book and Cup of Tea, July 4
Locks, Hooks and Books, July 4
For The Love of Books, July 4
Emily Yager, July 5
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, July 5
Texas Book-aholic, July 5
To celebrate her tour, Cathy is giving away a grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/e50c/the-medallion-celebration-tour-giveaway