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Starting off as a refugee in Guldenberg, Germany, was tough enough, but for Bernhard Haber, whose family-led by his one-armed carpenter father-fled Breslau after the 1945 Soviet invasion, things never got easier. From his first days in school, tossed into a class with students a year younger than he, when Bernhard makes quick business of exacting revenge upon a bully, to later injustices like the arson of his father's workshop, the murder of his dog and his father, Bernhard can't get a fair shake. Not one to gripe, he sticks it out. Through stints as a goon for a farmers' collective, a smuggler, a carpenter and town powerbroker, Bernhard remains a steady, if mysterious, character as his story is told by five acquaintances. Hein, a former president of PEN Germany, has a history of politically themed writing, and this novel does his legacy proud with its smart prose and keen social commentary. Seeing the postwar German landscape through the eyes of smalltown dwellers whose greatest moments involve their wooden bridge being used for a briefly rerouted autobahn, a reader can soak up the refugee experience. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.