A staggering love illuminating the dark corners of a Nazi prison
Renowned German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is famous for his resistance to the Nazi regime and for his allegiance to God over government. But what few realize is that the last years of his life also held a love story that rivals any romance novel.
Maria von Wedemeyer knows the realities of war. Her beloved father and brother have both been killed on the battlefield. The last thing this spirited young woman needs is to fall for a man under constant surveillance by the Gestapo. How can she give another piece of her heart to a man so likely to share the same final fate? Yet when Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an old family friend, comes to comfort the von Wedemeyers after their losses, she discovers that love isn't always logical.
Dietrich himself has determined to keep his distance from romantic attachments. There is too much work to be done for God, and his involvement in the conspiracy is far too important. But when he encounters a woman whose intelligence and conviction match his own, he's unprepared for how easy it is to give away his heart.
With their deep love comes riskand neither Dietrich nor Maria is prepared for just how great that risk soon becomes.
Based on detailed historical research, this true love story is at once beautiful and heartrending. My Dearest Dietrich sheds new light on a world-famous theologian . . . and the woman who changed his life.
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Amanda Barratt is the ECPA best-selling author of several novels and novellas, including My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and a two-time FHL Reader’s Choice Award finalist. She and her family live in northern Michigan. Visit her at www.amandabarratt.net.
Read an Excerpt
May 31, 1942 Sigtuna, Sweden
A dictatorship is like a snake. If you step on its tail, it will bite you.
The words played through Dietrich Bonhoeffer's mind as the taxi trundled through the streets of the ancient Swedish royal city. He stared out the sun-streaked window, his reflection an overlay. Nausea churned through him. But it was no longer due to yesterday's turbulent flight from Berlin to Stockholm. Nein, he'd recovered from that quickly enough.
The sensation of being observed, followed, occasioned a queasiness of an entirely different nature. One not easily shaken away.
The cramped taxi interior was rife with stale cigars and desperation — the former belonging to the profusely sweating driver, the latter his own, albeit concealed.
He'd worked too hard over the past few days for some hitch to prevent this meeting from going off according to plan.
The taxi jolted to a halt in front of the Nordic Ecumenical Institute.
Dietrich paid the driver — who barely nodded — grasped his suitcase with one hand, and opened the taxi door with the other. Afternoon sunlight warmed his face, the air pure and fresh.
With practiced calm, he scanned his surroundings, taking in the several-story, stone building, the manicured lawn, and wide steps leading to the front door. Had he been followed? Or was the sensation of a spider crawling up his neck due to pent-up nervous energy? A figure ambled around the back of the building, wearing a worn cap and carrying a toolbox.
Only a handyman.
Not the Gestapo.
Dietrich strode toward the door, black oxfords crunching on the gravel. He climbed the steps and gave a firm rap to the tarnished gold door knocker.
Would Bishop Bell still be here? Or would the hour trip from Stockholm to Sigtuna to see the Bishop of Chichester have been undertaken for nothing?
A fresh-faced maidservant opened the door.
"A visitor here to see Bishop Bell and Harry Johansson, if I may." Dietrich shifted the suitcase in his palm, posture erect, conscious of the clipped syllables that marked him as bearing an accent from the Führer's country.
There were few reasons for a German not in uniform to be visiting neutral Sweden. The last thing he needed was undue attention.
"Follow me please." The girl opened the door, motioning him down a narrow, dimly lit hall. Thankfully, she hadn't inquired his identity.
Though the papers within his suitcase didn't weigh much more than a loaf of bread, the knowledge of their existence made the case seem lined with lead.
The girl opened a door, revealing a room paneled in wood and cluttered with bookshelves and a well-used oaken desk. But what drew Dietrich's attention was the gray-haired gentleman sitting, large hands loose between his knees, in a wing chair near the window. The conversation between him and the lanky blond man sitting on the edge of the desk drew to an abrupt halt. Both gazes swung in Dietrich's direction. Bell's eyes widened in shock.
"Hello, George." Dietrich smiled. He hadn't seen his friend since the spring of 1939. Much had changed in his life — and in Germany — in the interim.
"Dietrich!" Bishop Bell rose to his feet. He opened his mouth, as if to exclaim over the unexpectedness of his arrival, but Dietrich spoke up first.
"You haven't changed a bit." Though nearing sixty, Bell looked in robust health, the space of years adding a few lines around the eyes, a few inches to his girth, but little else. Pressing on, Dietrich continued. "And this must be Mr. Johansson. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, at your service." He held out his hand to the Swede, and the man shook it heartily.
"Pleasure to make your acquaintance, sir." Johansson's smile was equal parts congenial and curious.
After a few minutes of pleasantries, Johansson left the room, leaving Dietrich and Bell alone. The second the door clicked, Bell's facade changed into stark astonishment.
"Whatever are you doing here? I heard you were in Norway on your way to the front lines." He sank down heavily into his chair.
"You mean what other reason would I have for being in Sweden, now of all times?" Dietrich took an unoccupied seat, placing his suitcase beside it. In another time and place, he'd have relaxed in the comfortable easy chair, stretched out his long legs, and settled in. Not today. The pressure of what he'd come to relay made him sit stiff and straight. "It's a long story. In short, I'm officially employed by the Abwehr."
"You work for Germany's Military Intelligence?" Bell leaned forward, gaze darting to and fro, as if unable to grasp the weight of Dietrich's words.
"In a word, ja, I do." There wasn't much time. Someday after the war, when he and Bell could meet again, he'd explain everything. Right now, he need only hit the high points. "My brother-in-law, Hans von Dohnanyi, is at the heart of my involvement. And the conspiracy." It was only a word.
But a weighted one. Laden with so many implications ... so many lives.
On instinct, he scanned the room, checking for telephones that could be tapped, open windows where anyone could overhear.
Under the Malicious Practices Act, communication with England or any enemy government wasn't only dangerous. It was treason. Punishable by execution.
A treason he committed with all his might and main.
Heart pounding, he leaned forward, voice cut to a whisper. "It's not just a conspiracy. There are plans ... plans in place for the overthrow of the German government and the assassination of Adolf Hitler."
Bell's sharp intake of air sliced the atmosphere like the whistle of a bullet.
"It's true then," he breathed.
"Never more so," Dietrich said. "And we need you, George. I traveled from Berlin with the express purpose of meeting with you to ask — beg — you on behalf of my friends in Germany to aid us in getting word of our plans to the British government. When — if — the coup succeeds, those involved want to know that Britain will be willing to negotiate peace. With your contacts in the House of Lords, you can speak to Anthony Eden.
As foreign secretary under Churchill, Eden can help us, if only he can be convinced." Dietrich's words came faster now, rushing out of him. "Hans and General Oster believe that many more officers under Hitler could be convinced to join us if they could be certain we had the support of the British government. In the way of gaining such support, you could do a great deal for us."
Bell pressed a hand against his lined forehead. "Of course. Of course. I'll do my utmost. But the secret memorandum you sent to me last year ... none of them took it very seriously. They reject the idea that anti-Nazi forces in Germany could have any effect, except after complete military defeat."
"Field Marshals von Bock and von Kluge don't agree. They're determined, along with General Beck and General Oster and others, to see the government overthrown after Hitler's assassination. Until that event takes place, we cannot gain much headway."
"Field Marshals von Bock and von Kluge," Bell murmured, as if committing the names to memory. He nodded. "Give me all the names and information you can, Dietrich. I'll use it to the best of my abilities. You know as well as I that Churchill is vehemently opposed to any discussion of peace.
He wants the war won, and at all costs. After these long years of fighting, the lines between Germans and Nazis have become blurred. Almost to the point of being indistinguishable. And can you blame them? London has been ruthlessly bombed ... hundreds of civilians killed. They've endured great losses dealt by the hands of Hitler and his generals. It's little wonder they're cautious at the idea of this 'resistance.'"
Dietrich stood and paced toward the window, staring out but seeing little of the vista of blue sky and sunlight. Instead, the faces of the hunted and defenseless rose before him, an endless line of specters who would forever haunt him. Those Germany had ordered euthanized because they believed their state of health decreed them unworthy of life.
And the Jews. God's chosen ones. No matter he stood in a room in neutral Sweden, he could not ignore the fact that, by order of the Führer, millions of them were being systematically murdered, crammed into railcars like cattle shipped to the slaughterhouse. Women. Children.
He swung back around, facing Bell. A swirl of dust motes floated in the sunlight, the rays landing on Bell's thinning gray hair. His friend would aid their cause, get the truth to those at the top. But would he succeed at convincing them?
"Only a few know of my involvement," he said quietly. "Many believe because I'm part of the Abwehr that I've deflected, turned away from standing with the Confessing Church." He swallowed. "Germany has sinned, George. We must all pay the price of bringing the nation to repentance. Christ calls us to suffer on behalf of others. My suffering involves putting aside qualms of conscience. I lie. I create falsified memorandums to disguise the true nature of my journeys."
"And participating in plans that involve murder?" Bell met Dietrich's gaze. There was no censure in the man's eyes. Only a demand for honesty.
Dietrich nodded. He would not allow himself to squirm beneath such talk, however uncomfortable it made him. "Perhaps that, too, is part of Germany's punishment. That we are forced to resort to such means." He resumed his seat, drawing out his suitcase to gather papers for Bell to take with him. "We've gone too far for any other course of action. It must be done."
His brother Klaus's words resurfaced, their refrain an eerie cadence in his ears, as Dietrich prepared to expound on details of the conspiracy, relaying things that, if known, could lead to deadly consequences as fast as the time it took for a Gestapo finger to squeeze the trigger.
If you step on its tail, it will bite you.CHAPTER 2
June 8, 1942 Klein-Krössin Manor Pomerania, Prussia
Ah ... the memories he had of this place.
Dietrich approached the cottage, afternoon sun warm on his face, the twitter of birdsong high on the air. Klein-Krössin had always been a haven for him, a small corner of serenity. A place for thinking and writing, long conversations accompanied by kaffee and firelight.
After the wearying travel to and from Sweden, he needed this respite more than ever.
He'd have knocked — had Ruth von Kleist-Retzow not thrown open the door first.
"Dietrich. How good to see you!" Though Ruth's hair had long since turned white as the snowy alps, and her skin boasted more than a few lines and furrows, the brightness of her smile put to shame a hundred electric bulbs.
"Ruth." He embraced the woman, then held the door for her to reenter the house. Inside the small foyer, it smelled just as a home ought. Clean, like soap and polish. Welcoming, like strudel and sauerbraten.
"You look tired, Dietrich." The woman's keen eyes missed nothing.
"The Abwehr keeps me busy." Though Ruth had more than a slight inkling about the true nature of his activities, such things weren't spoken of in broad daylight, even in the relative safety of Klein-Krössin.
"And besides, who isn't tired these days?"
"Well, you're free to stay as long and often as you choose." Shoes tapping on the gleaming wood floor, Ruth led the way into the parlor. It was a room used and loved; its state both tidy and disordered. Though everything was spotlessly clean, photographs cluttered the mantle — Ruth's many children and grandchildren, and pillows and throw-blankets adorned the two floral-upholstered sofas. A window set ajar let in summer's fragrance and the sound of muted honking — Ruth's beloved geese.
If he hadn't already come to terms with the why of his lifestyle — what man of his age and capabilities was exempt from use in battlefield service for the Fatherland? — enjoying such luxury would have brought with it a hefty measure of guilt. But he was being used by God, a task a thousand times more important than any job dictated by the Führer. Used to minister, to write, to conspire.
The last he could never forget, not even at Klein-Krössin.
"I can only manage a week at the most, this time. But I hope to get plenty of work done while I'm here."
"You're still writing Ethics?" Ruth motioned for him to sit on the sofa opposite her.
"Ja." Whenever he had the time and God provided the inspiration. Dietrich always made good progress in the writing studio Ruth had fixed up for him in her attic. It was there he'd finished Nachfolge, a book that had received more acclaim than he'd expected, even in America where it was known by the title The Cost of Discipleship.
Of course, nothing bearing the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer was printed in Germany these days.
"So tell me, Ruth, how are you doing?"
The lady opened her mouth to respond. But footsteps, quick and clattering, cut her off.
A girl stormed into the room. Ja, stormed was the only way to describe it. Mud splattered the front of her skirt and blouse, dotted her nose. She wasn't tall in stature; neither was she particularly petite. But what she didn't own in height, she made up for with indignation.
"You wouldn't believe what that dummkopf Friedrich Schiller did! Remember those strawberries I gave to Greta just this morning? I found him in front of the butcher's, attempting to take them from her. I tried to get the basket away from him, but he pulled and pulled. And you once said he was such a Liebling. Liebling! If that boy is this much trouble at nine years old, I shudder to think of what a terror he'll be at fifteen." She planted both fists on her hips.
Dietrich sat motionless, trying to suppress a chuckle. Of course the situation wasn't at all humorous — a boy stealing a girl's fruit. But the way this fraülein, whoever she was, looked so royally indignant warranted a bit of mirth.
"I see." Ruth's smile was almost too patient, as if she'd witnessed such outbursts before. "I'm sure you gave him what he deserved, dear. In fact, I pity Friedrich Schiller for having the misfortune to meet with your wrath. I doubt he'll come back for another helping anytime soon."
The girl nodded. A strand of honey-colored hair dangled down her cheek.
"But, Maria, it isn't good manners, as you well know, to barge into the room in such a helter-skelter fashion. Especially when we have company."
It was as if she suddenly noticed his presence. The girl — Maria — clapped both hands over her mouth. Shock and mortification raced through her eyes in rapid succession.
For a moment, no one said a word. Maria stared at him. He looked steadily back. Ruth glanced between them both, hands folded in her lap as calmly as ever.
Finally, Maria pried her hands away from her mouth.
"Grossmutter, who is that?" She pointed at him as if he were some sort of unwelcome spider.
Ruth laughed in that silvery way of hers. Before she could make introductions, Dietrich stood and crossed to where the girl was.
"Allow me to take the liberty of introducing myself. I'm Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
And you are?" He smiled, wanting to ease her discomfort. After all, it wasn't her fault she'd fallen in the mud or been unaware of his arrival.
Her chin angled slightly. She had an arresting face, almost girlishly round in its angles and planes, yet proud and startlingly lovely. "Maria von Wedemeyer."
Now it was his turn to be shaken. Gone were the long braids and shapeless pinafores he remembered about the little girl he'd attempted to take on for confirmation classes. The Maria before him, with her expressive blue eyes and upswept, albeit tousled, hair, was twelve years old no longer.
He cleared his throat, realizing she expected him to say something along the lines of polite conversation. "It's ... um ... very nice to meet you. Again."
She held out her hand, though it, too, was a bit muddy. He took it anyway, unable to unglue his gaze from her face. She appeared recovered from her earlier outburst and gazed back, unblinking. Her fingers clasped his, not hesitating or limp, but warm and decisive, and it was probably longer than necessary before he found his senses and pulled away.
Maria faced her grossmutter. "Why did you not tell me Pastor Bonhoeffer was arriving this afternoon?"
Ruth laughed again, as if the whole situation were as entertaining as a comic opera. "Why? Would you have made more of an effort in your appearance?"
Maria shrugged, a flash of laughter in her gaze. "Oh probably. It's a good thing I refrained from dragging Friedrich Schiller in here by his ear. He's a good deal muddier than I at the moment." She grinned, as if accustomed to giving her grossmutter what for.
"Why don't you go and change, Maria." Ruth inclined her head toward the door.
"Of course." Maria turned her attention back to him, a flush suffusing her cheeks. "My apologies for my sudden entrance, Pastor Bonhoeffer. It's a habit of mine while here at Klein-Krössin."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "My Dearest Dietrich"
Copyright © 2019 Amanda Barratt.
Excerpted by permission of Kregel Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
'It was what it all came down to in the end. He wanted to live, to see his parents and marry Maria, but ultimately it wasn't about him. It was about submitting to the will of One greater than himself, seeking that will more than he sought everything else. Valued anything else.' How in the world do you start to read a book you know is going to end in tragedy? I could not bear to start for a while because I knew what was going to happen. It was going to break my heart. I have long admired Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was one of the greatest theologians of the last century and gave his life for Christ. Bonhoeffer refused, in the face of Nazism, to compromise the values of the Bible and of Christ to Hitler's evil machinations. And he paid with his life. He knew that was a distinct possibility, yet he forged on, knowing that he was following the right path. Amanda Barratt took on an admirable task when she made the decision to write about Bonhoeffer's life. And she gave us a deeper look at his life, concentrating on not only his incredible faith and bravery, but his love for his fiancé, Maria von Wedemeyer. The fiancé he would never be blessed to marry, but who he would carry in his heart all the way to the gallows. And Barratt writes this so well, so well indeed, that the reader's heart just weeps with what they know is to come. Her research is impeccable and she manages to convey such deep emotion that I nearly weep every time I just look at this book. Well done! And one quote from Bonhoeffer just stirs my soul: 'Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine.' May we all have this view. *My thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
Love love and love this story!! Loving someone is one of the easiest and the hardest things we will ever do. It's promising to stay beside someone through everything, not just the happy moments, but the heart-wrenching, gut-punching, take-your-very-breath rough stuff too. It's letting someone see the very heart of you, flaws and all. Your hopes, dreams, fears, and every bit of you. It also means letting them open up to you as well, an invitation to see the real person they are. Love is hard, there's just no easy way to put it. But real love is able to grow stronger despite the things that life tries to throw at us. Things that are meant to break apart are the perfect opportunity to grow closer together. It's so hard sometimes, but real love and the people in our lives are always worth it.
“I hold your picture in my hand every night, and tell you lots of things—lots of ‘do you remembers,’ and ‘later ons’—so many of them that I finally can’t help believing that they’re only a small step away from the present. And then I tell you all the things that can’t be put into writing—certainly not if other people have to read my letters—but things you already know without my writing them down.” ~from Maria von Wedemeyer to Dietrich Bonhoeffer~ As a fan of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I applaud Amanda Barratt for making his story available and relatable to all readers through this beautiful historical fiction novel! Through her writing, Bonhoeffer’s admirable qualities—his bravery, commitment, eloquence, kindness, faithfulness—shine, yet we also see him as a man in love, hoping for a happy future surrounded by wife and children. This makes his willingness to risk his life and personal happiness in order to stand against evil even more poignant and powerful. If you’re not familiar with the story, during WWII, Bonhoeffer, “a balding bachelor of thirty-six” fell in love Maria von Wedemeyer “a beautiful eighteen-year-old who could take her pick among any aristocratic young man she fancied.” Perhaps what made an impression on him was that the first time he met her, she was disheveled and mud-covered from taking a stand against the neighborhood bully to protect an innocent. Maria was a “muddy, Goethe-quoting girl who’d swept into the room, disordering it—and him—in a matter of seconds.” As a man who “didn’t have a regular income, lived with his parents in Berlin and his aunt when in Munich” and had “written few books, preached lots of sermons, and now worked daily in a conspiracy that could just as easily get him killed as not,” Dietrich had little to offer her. Yet Maria found herself drawn to him. Wise beyond her years, she at first believed: “Though she didn’t yet love him in the way of a woman on her wedding day, she knew beyond anything that she would.” However, through letters and visits to Dietrich while he was in prison, their bond grew. Maria claimed: “Is there a limit to how much one heart can miss another? If so, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I haven’t found it.” Their relationship shows how friendship can grow into love. This is a thoroughly researched story of love, sacrifice, courage, family bonds, duty, romance, and—above all—faith. At times gripping, at times sweetly romantic, it’s a great read! I’ve already started giving hard copies of this book as gifts. Can’t wait to share this story with my students! Thanks to Amanda Barratt, NetGalley, and Kregel Publications for giving me the opportunity to read this story.
A beautiful and sorrowful love story during a pivotal time in history When I first saw that there was an opportunity to read My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love by author Amanda Barratt, I wasn’t interested. Mostly because this novel would be hard to read emotionally and learn more about the evils that happened during World War II. But I’m so glad I took a second look and decided to read it. Before I read My Dearest Dietrich, I had basic knowledge of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that he was a Christian pastor and had participated in a plot to have Adolph Hitler assassinated and that he was executed for his part in that conspiracy. But other than that, I didn’t know the details. This book is wonderful. I learned about Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life, family and his beloved fiancée Maria von Wedemeyer. How decent, God-fearing Germans citizens were impacted by what Hitler was doing. While not everyone was able to personally fight the evil things they saw happening, so many citizens were gravely impacted by the maniacal and brutal dictator and were just trying to survive. It was heartening to learn of the Bonhoeffer family, their friends and many others who sought, albeit unsuccessfully, to put an end to Hitler’s reign of evil. In Dietrich and Maria’s story, I saw that love must be brave. It was inspiring and touching to see how Maria sought to be there for Dietrich, breathe life and hope into their future, even if it meant risking her own life. They managed to deepen and grow their relationship through letters and monthly one-hour visits at Tegel prison under the watchful eye of the guards. Dietrich, in turn, sought to protect Maria and his family and accepted the severe consequences of his actions. I took my time reading My Dearest Dietrich because I didn’t want to rush by and miss some of the treasures contained therein. This is a beautiful love story between two very different, but uniquely suited, people during a pivotal time in history. Amanda Barratt did a wonderful job in writing this true and fictionalized, account of Dietrich and Maria’s love story. I would like to thank Kregel Publications and NetGalley for a complimentary of the book and the opportunity to read My Dearest Dietrich by Amanda Barratt. It’s a love story to remember. I was no obligation to give a favorable review.
Amanda Barratt writes with a gentle hand about war-torn Germany and some incredibly brave people taking a stand against the tyranny which shadows every crevice of their lives. I sit here thinking about this beautiful story, with a heart full of hope. We get to see the love of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his beloved Maria and also the deep abiding love for our heavenly Father. It's a novel that will stay with you for a long time, and have you asking another book lover-have you read this novel? It's simply wonderful.
MY DEAREST DIETRICH is rich in vivrant detail that enables the reader to see, smell, hear, touch and taste whatever the character is and also experience every emotion, from acute embarrassment at being caught covered in mud to the anger, dismay, and fear when as a prisoner, Dietrich "got lost" in Nazi Germany. The story begins with Marie attempting to visit her lover in prison, then goes back in time to when they actually notice each other and progresses from there. The story is mostly historically accurate, but fictionized enough to make it readable as a novel. This is a WWII novel like none other. There is no happy ever after in this book. It ends with heartbreak. The real life Dietrich gave his life to follow Christ. That alone made me hesitate to read this book. I do love HEA. Those curious about the nonfictionalized account might want to read Love Letters from Cell 92 or perhaps a biography about this renowned and much loved theologian. I was given a copy free. All opinions are my own.
Beautiful and inspiring! Amanda Barratt brings these two historical figures to life in truly lovely prose, and the description of life in Nazi Germany is well-researched and harrowing, highlighting the heartrending choices faced by people of conscience. If you’re already familiar with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the novel will illuminate a soft side of this greater-than-life man. And if you aren’t, you’ll want to learn more. Either way, don’t miss it. This is a powerful novel, and I highly recommend it.
Prost to all the strong-willed women of the 1930-1940s! And let's not forget all the men and women who retaliated against Hitler from inside Deutschland--not everyone believed in what he did nor did they stand for it. And I found it interesting to read a WW2 book from that perspective. While I admit it took me a bit to get into the book, once I was hooked, I read it all in one fell swoop. I enjoyed the historical aspect of the novel, and the author, Amanda Barratt, even includes a notes section in the back to explain what happened to the characters in real life. But I also enjoyed the fictional liberties Barratt took to bring the story to life and fill in any gaps left behind in the past. Maria von Wedemeyer is not a force to be reckoned with. She's strong, stubborn, and a wonderful person. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is kind and thoughtful. I enjoyed the formatting of the book with the switching narrators between the two and getting to intimately know each one of them. Take note: Pay close attention to dates and locations at the beginning of each chapter! Barratt also tucks in German words in the midst of the English in such a way that I noticed and appreciated, but it wasn't forced. I feel it helped authenticate the story, and I liked it! If you're interested in love, WW2, and a sucker for a good historical fiction, "My Dearest Dietrich" is your next read.
This book has taken me over two weeks to write a review because I just couldn’t put my thoughts on paper. Based on a true story, author Amanda Barratt has done an incredible job of researching Dietrich and Maria’s lives. So rich with facts intertwined with “what may have happened”, this story must be read if you have an interest in history. To see how Christians struggled with what to do during Nazi Germany was painful for me, an American Christian who hasn’t faced such things. I knew there were plots against Hitler but hadn't seen the human interest side of them. “A dictatorship is like a snake. If you step on its tail, it will bite you.” Barratt doesn’t shy away from the heartache of this terrible time. Yet woven throughout is hope and love and the knowledge that come what may, God is always good. And knowing what was to come I still had to continue reading. This book wasn’t a quick, easy read for me. I had to periodically put it down so I could reflect on the happenings. Yet for this type of book this isn’t a bad thing but a necessity so the reader can understand the depth of what these very real people lived with. Written with real letters, devotionals, and sermons included, we get a true picture through a novel. As you can tell, I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves history. I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.
When you begin reading this book, please be aware that you will need to pause often so that you can wipe your eyes and if you're like me, you may experience a tightness in your chest during some of the described events. No, it wasn't a heart attack but it was an attack on my heart strings! I was aware of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his determination to keep the true gospel message alive during the nightmare of Adolf Hitler's evil regime but I didn't know about the deep love that he shared with Maria von Wedemeyer. My Dearest Dietrich is the account of their relationship that began as a friendship in June 1942, evolved into their engagement in 1943, and continued to his execution in 1945. Yes, this is a novel but Dietrich and his fiancee Maria actually experienced many of the events described in this book. They didn't have a "happily ever after" romance but Dietrich and Maria experienced a deep and beautiful love in those few years. And, as we read in the author's notes, even though Maria married two other men she never loved another man like she loved her 'dearest Dietrich'. There are many touching moments that are beautiful and bittersweet. Maria gets help from prison guards to drag a Christmas tree up three flights of stairs in her effort to provide Dietrich with a special Christmas while he is in prison; Maria gifting him with her late father's watch and telling him "Before I met you, it was owned by the man I loved best. It's only right you should have it now"; and in their last time together, Maria teaching Dietrich to dance. Many people will say that Bonhoeffer's life didn't have a happy ending either but Christian believers will disagree. The extraordinary life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer certainly wasn't easy but it can never be labeled as wasted. He served His God, he was true to his convictions, and he never doubted where he would spend Eternity. "Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine." Author Amanda Barratt devoted several years to researching and writing this book and it certainly shows. This is a book that will most certainly be on TBR (To Be Read) lists everywhere and I will be very surprised if it isn't named to award lists also. My Dearest Dietrich is not a book to be taken lightly and it is a book that you will never forget! Historical fictions fans---Christian fiction fans---Romantic fiction fans: This book is for you! I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Given the huge impact the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer have had on Christianity, he has obtained somewhat of a "Protestant Saint" status. Due to the myth and legend that exist concerning his life, many individuals do not think about the rest of his life and that he was a human being who had relationships and a finance. The new book My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Lost Love will change that. My Dearest Dietrich is a heart-wrenching book simply because the reader knows the outcome from the beginning. Even if a reader is not familiar with the story, the first chapter sets up the outcome. However, Bonhoeffer and his eventual fiancee Maria experience numerous other obstacles that keep them from spending time together or even corresponding. Reading the story of how they are placed together and how their love grows even when others try to keep them apart in the midst of a horrific world war is a wonderful testimony of the power of love and God. This book is highly recommended and due to its subject matter would appeal to a larger audience than most traditional "Christian romance." Author Amanda Barratt borrows heavily from the actual correspondence between Bonhoeffer and Maria von Wedemeyer as recorded in Love Letters from Cell 92. Many readers will wish to obtain a copy of this work to read as a follow-up to My Dearest Dietrich. While noting the story is a fictional account and indicating where the story line was "adjusted," Barratt certainly did her research for this book and lists several excellence resources for further reading. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received My Dearest Dietrich via NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
Amanda Barratt’s beautifully penned love story based on the lives of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Maria von Wedemeyer is truly a work of art. Her impeccable and detailed research, combined with her gift of story, add up to an exquisite and heart-wrenching tale which is a must-read for historical fiction lovers. Because this story is based on actual people, and because history had already determined the ending, there is an added poignancy to it. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a brilliant theologian who could not compromise his beliefs in the face of Hitler’s Nazism. He and many others conspired against Hitler and his atrocities knowing that the tiniest hint of conspiracy could bring the ultimate sacrifice. My heart broke for him and Maria and their families that were torn apart by the war and “man’s inhumanity to man.” The letters written between the two give a glimpse of their lives and feelings during this bleak time in history. The characters, both main and secondary, are vividly drawn and come to life on the page. The cover/book jacket is beautiful and striking and drew me in immediately. I enjoyed the author’s notes at the end of the book, which included updates on the lives of some of the characters and gave additional information on the book. My Dearest Dietrich has easily made the list of my favorite reads of the year and is bound for my keeper shelf. I would highly recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction based on fact. I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Do Not Miss This Book! A couple days after finishing this book, I am still wrecked. Words cannot do this novel justice because it’s such a heart-level story, but I’m going to try anyway. As someone who grew up in the church, I knew of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as well as bits and pieces of his life and death. But in My Dearest Dietrich, Amanda Barratt’s immaculate research and stunning prose puts skin on this man, this paragon of faith. Seriously, how can an author write such a beautifully moving novel at twenty-three? I admit, it’s hard to start a book when you already know there will be no happily ever after—at least not until eternity. But, as someone who would also never pick up a 600 page non-fiction tome about the man, this was an excellent education into the life of Dietrich—his faith, his family, his work in the resistance movement to rid Germany of Hitler and his tyranny, and his romance with young Maria von Wedemeyer. And don’t the people who sacrificed everything—those they loved most, their hopes and dreams of a future, their lives—deserve to have their stories told as much as, maybe even more than, those who survived? Yes, I realize I am sharing very little about the actual content of this novel. One, because it’s one you have to savor, to experience, and to reflect on where your own heart and faith stand. It’s a book that will make you question if you would put everything on the line for the lives of others who have had their voices stolen away. Do yourself a favor and block out an afternoon or evening to sit down with Dietrich and Maria because you will come out the other side with a full heart. And, like me, your list of people you hope to meet in heaven may grow by at least two (mine grew to include the entire Bonhoeffer and von Wedemeyer families). Disclosure statement: I receive complimentary books from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including NetGalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
A moving, powerful read! Barratt captures the uncertainty of WWII Germany along with the tangible chemistry between Dietrich and Maria. Even though I knew how part of the story went, I was still moved to tears the way the author described the events. A truly beautiful love story encompassing the selflessness of true love.
I’ve been looking forward to the release of My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love since I first saw author Amanda Barratt‘s post that she’d signed a contract for the novel. Well folks, the wait is over and I can honestly say the book was everything I’d hoped for and so much more. The depth of research that Barratt undertook to write this novel is staggering. It takes a talented writer to bring the love story of a well-known hero of the Christian faith to life even when the ending is inevitably known. Using numerous excerpts from the private love letters exchanged between Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his young fiancée, Maria von Wedemeyer, Barratt gives the reader a glimpse into the deep faith and tender romance between these ill-fated lovers. Barratt doesn’t paint an overly-romanticized version of their relationship either. The nearly twenty year difference in their ages raises concern on the part of Maria’s mother as well as Dietrich’s involvement in subversive activities that, if discovered, could bring not only heartache to Maria, but danger for everyone she holds dear. Nor does the author avoid the dark circumstances surrounding Nazi Germany when the two inexplicably fall in love. She accurately portrays the horrific realities of WWII and life in Tegel prison—atrocities, heartbreak, endless interrogations, and constant surveillance, yet seemlessly weaves hopeful threads of triumph, strength, courage, endurance, and the ever present faith that carries the main players through all that stands in their way. As a writer of historical romantic fiction myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the numerous historical details Barratt employed throughout making the setting and time period come alive without bogging the story down. From black out curtains and rations, to air raid sirens and secret plots, Barratt never lets us forget who her characters were and what was at stake for them. I especially appreciated the sprinkling of German words—mutter, vater, kaffe, and kuchen (just to name a few), that were not overdone or distracting from the story. I often found myself reading many of the other lines with my own feeble German accent. It’s not uncommon for characters to stay with me long after I’ve finished a novel, but My Dearest Dietrich is a story I cannot stop ruminating over. With heart-wrenching angst and gut-twisting turmoil, Barratt kept me turning the pages and left me completely undone. I can honestly say that I’ve only reread a few books in my adult life, but I’m confident My Dearest Dietrich has earned a coveted spot among those rare titles whose story I will want to revisit time and time again. I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
I’m still sitting here absorbing all the feels and emotional storm that this book takes you through. Words cannot do it justice. This story is woven so beautifully that tears come to my eyes even thinking about the love and struggles Dietrich, Maria and so many others endured during this time of our history. Gritty reality of war in the middle of the horrific time in Germany is portrayed so well that you will be immersed and part of the story. You will feel the hurts, sorrows, happiness and joy that all these amazing characters go through. The gentle love between these two is what keeps you reading – wanting to know there was some sweet pure moments still alive in an era of so much sadness. I highly recommend this book to ALL! I know I will keep coming back to it for years. Never has a book moved me so much as this. Thank you to the publisher for this book, the opinion is all my own.
This is a hauntingly beautiful tale- the kind that haunts the reader long after the last page has been read. It is a poignant love story of two people who become extraordinary during a dark time in history. It is a story of faith and how that faith becomes a beacon of light within such darkness. Amanda Barrett, a new to me author, has landed a spot on the top of my author list. Her prose is poetic and historical research is impeccable. Her skill in weaving the two into a story that will impact the reader is that of a master storyteller! Bravo! A couple of my favorite quotes: "God will give us the strength at the time we require it. Not a minute before." "Death is not the end...It's the freedom and light and promise. Its grace...Ours to accept of our own free will. Without Christ it is cold and dark and empty, but with Him.....death is beautiful. He transforms it." "Ultimately it wasn't about him. It was about submitting to the will of One greater than himself, seeking that will more than he sought anything else. Valued anything else. Even his own life." I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book from the author/publisher. I was not required to write a review. All opinions expressed are my own.
“The world knew Dietrich Bonhoeffer. But they did not know him as she had. No one else did. Together, they had shared the most earthly and the most ethereal of emotions. Love. During a time history would remember as horrific, they’d experienced moments of beauty and joy.” How can a book with a known ending cause me to cry so much? I haven’t read another historical fiction like this book - one that feels like a biography with its meticulously researched details yet also like an old nostalgic black and white romance movie to be savored with the incredible swells of emotion. Each sentence is so beautifully and lovingly crafted, each page precious in its sorrow and hope. Amanda Barratt will take you into the heart and soul of Dietrich and Maria in the war-torn Germany to experience first-hand what they were seeing and feeling. Their friendship that slowly morphs into love is challenged on every side, first by Maria’s mother then by Dietrich’s arrest and imprisonment. Dietrich is drawn to Maria’s fresh innocence and youthful delight. Maria is drawn to Dietrich’s brilliant mind, unshakable faith, and deep sense of loyalty and honor and justice. Their love is so achingly tender, pummeled by loss and sorrow, yet grounded in the hope that is eternal and everlasting. This book will stay with me for a long time to come. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s stance on what a true follower of Christ looks like is branded on my heart. I received a copy of the book from Kregel Publication and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All comments and opinions are solely my own.
My Dearest Dietrich I am not a fan of sad love-story novels. I am an avid fan of novels that transport the reader to a time and place in history. This was a book I was unable to read without an elevated pulse and a tissue- and I loved it. So many wonderful actual quotes and the author’s delightful insightful phrases made this like watching a musical with dramatic music and soft lighting. Amanda Barratt skillfully composed the touching and tragic story of two unlikely people to start a romance during the turbulent, dark days of uncertainty during WW2. Yet the faith of these two shines brighter than the dark prison cell where Dietrich wrote letters to Maria. Inspiring, because it makes me question how much I would risk to do the right thing. When I need a dose of courage, I will re-read this captivating novel. I received this book from the publisher without a review required. I freely give it a gold 5 star.
“Overhead, there was no sky.” So begins this haunting and heart-wrenching tale of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Maria von Wedemeyer. Amanda Barratt pens a novel borne of years of research and meticulous attention to factual details. That she holds great respect for the subjects of her book shines through in every riveting sentence. How does one tell a story where the end is known to many, yet still hold your interest from the very first page until the last? Though I knew what was coming, my heart was broken to see the end of the story. From the beginning we see glimpses of the love the two had for each other, sensing the tremendous odds against their love coming to a joyful conclusion. I’ve not read many novels set in World War II. Perhaps growing up during a time when movies about this horrifying era were endless, made me leery of reading more. But this novel captured my heart and made me want to know more about the heroic, selfless people who dared to stand up against Hitler and his inhumane acts against innocent men, women, and children. I am honored to have had the privilege to read this stirring account. I was provided a copy of this book by the author and was asked only for my honest opinion. All thoughts were my own.
It took me a few days to digest what I read, like when I went to the Holocaust Museum it is almost to much to take in. This book is a treasure trove of nuggets waiting to be mined and applied to your life. It has the ability to change you and make you a better person, because of what Christ can do when we face the hard times. Ms. Barratt tackled a difficult subject with the ability to draw you in and immerse you in the lives of Dietrich and Marie. You will need tissues, especially during the dance scene, which is one of the most tender, haunting scenes I have ever read. This book deserves an award of excellence for its research, accomplished writing, and interpretation of the characters. This is an emotional and prismatic journey that leaves you thinking about it for days afterwards. Recommended reading for everyone. I received a complimentary copy from the author/publisher. The honest review and opinions are my own and were not required.
“Nein, Maria. Nothing is ever godforsaken. He is in everything ... In the giving and taking of life. In all of our moments, even this one.” It’s so hard to find the words to do this book justice. It’s such a wonderfully beautiful and haunting story of love and loss. Amanda Barratt did such a great job telling the love story of Dietrich and Maria. Their story came to life right on these pages. There was so much going on. It’s best to read this book slowly so you can savor each moment. This book filled my heart and challenged me. I found myself asking if I could stand strong in my faith if it gets tested. I definitely recommend this book! I received a complimentary copy from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.
Amanda Barratt has written a sensitive, heart wrenching novel of the love between theologian, spy and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his eventual fiancée, Maria von Wedemeyer in "My Dearest Dietrich." Drawing from her copious research on Bonhoeffer's life and works, as well as personal writings, Barratt has crafted a book that will stay in your heart long after you've closed the pages. As the characters in the novel were actual people from history, I wondered how the author could craft a connection with the facts and the fiction to the reader. (I shouldn't have been concerned!) Barratt does a great job of bringing people who many consider heroes of the faith to a level that any reader, whether aware of Maria and Dietrich's history or not, could connect deeply with. It still breaks my heart that they were never able to marry. Their love is so evident on the pages, it made me weep. Although there are many novels based on World War II and the atrocities of the Holocaust, "My Dearest Dietrich" will pull at your heart, your conscience and your faith. It asks the reader to not only embrace that these people were real, but they were at once very human in their emotions and relationships, too. One can't help but fall in love with the lyrical style or writing Barrett brings to this novel, and I would say that while this is not an easy read, it is one worth finishing. She also does an excellent job of setting the scenes and using descriptors of eras gone by. Real snippets of letters and writings, along with sermons and devotionals, are carefully interwoven into the novel, thanks to Barratt's commitment to detail and authenticity. At times you care so much for these people it almost feels like the story is too much to be true. But it is, and then the reader's perspective changes to "What would I have done in this situation?" or " How could this have happened?" Barratt also gives a final author's note in conclusion that explains the reasons she wrote certain scenes or characters for the novel, which I appreciated very much. It is always nice to hear directly from the author, especially with the caliber of people she was using as characters in this work of fiction. Beautifully haunting, hopeful in the face of evil and challenging to anyone who feels like their voice couldn't possibly make a difference, "My Dearest Dietrich," is a masterpiece. I was honored to have been able to be an early reader, thanks to Kregel Publications. I was not required to leave a review.
Oh my, I just finished this most beautiful story! Absolutely a FIVE STAR read. So many words come to mind when thinking of thinking of My Dearest Dietrich, these are just a few: brave, tender, lovely, moving, sad, horrific circumstances, evil, courageous, faithful. I knew little about Dietrich Bonhoeffer before reading and loving "My Dearest Dietrich" by Author Amanda Barratt. That's what I love about well written historical fiction, it always makes me want to learn more, in fact I just ordered one of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's books, and also Maria's book of their love letters while he was in prison, both found on the author's "for further reading" list. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was a German theologian and pastor who tried to fight the brutality and the evil of the Nazi's in his own quiet, yet potentially dangerous way. It really makes one think about how important it is to fight evil where it exists in our day as well. Amanda Barratt did an impeccable job with her research, and seamlessly wove real history into this beautiful tale. I have at least a dozen pages earmarked with quotes I want to revisit. One in particular sticks out to me "...where the gospel permeates every aspect of one's life......the whole of it-work, family, marriage -should be given over to God in its entirety." That is certainly the goal. This is an excellent book, I highly recommend it. My thanks to the publisher for a copy of the book, all opinions are my own.
I haven't the words to describe the emotions I felt while reading this amazing book. Nor do I have words that will do it proper justice in a review. So very well written and researched by Amanda Barratt, this is the fictionalized story of Dietrich and Maria but based on fact and actual letters. I knew some of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's life story as a theologian, I did not know of his story as a man, until now. It is a true love story like no other. Knowing that there is no happily ever after caused me to feel the words more deeply than I ever have before. I read the entire book in a single day, sobbing several times 'till the end. The story is moving, heartrending, tragic, haunting, and beautiful all at the same time. The letters, the brief meetings, the single hour at a time allowed for visiting (under the watchful eye of Gestapo guards), their last hour together. This is a book that must be read and felt in your own hearts. I do recommend this book. It will stay with you long after you turn the last page. *I received an advanced e-copy of this book from the publisher. No review was required. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.