Highly recommended 5-star read... The Berlin Letters by Katherine Reay (Review) #newbooks #booktwitter #mustread #5stars #histfic #historicalfiction #theberlinletters #katherinereay @Katherine_Reay @harpermusebooks @Austenprose

Welcome! I loved this book and cannot recommend it enough! Read my full five-star review below...

The Berlin Letters:
A Cold War Novel
By Katherine Reay
Historical Fiction
Paperback, Audiobook & eBook, 368 Pages
March 5, 2024 by Harper Muse


Bestselling author Katherine Reay returns with an unforgettable tale of the Cold War and a CIA code breaker who risks everything to free her father from an East German prison.

From the time she was a young girl, Luisa Voekler has loved solving puzzles and cracking codes. Brilliant and logical, she’s expected to quickly climb the career ladder at the CIA. But while her coworkers have moved on to thrilling Cold War assignments—especially in the exhilarating era of the late 1980s—Luisa’s work remains stuck in the past decoding messages from World War II.

Journalist Haris Voekler grew up a proud East Berliner. But as his eyes open to the realities of postwar East Germany, he realizes that the Soviet promises of a better future are not coming to fruition. After the Berlin Wall goes up, Haris finds himself separated from his young daughter and all alone after his wife dies. There’s only one way to reach his family—by sending coded letters to his father-in-law who lives on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

When Luisa Voekler discovers a secret cache of letters written by the father she has long presumed dead, she learns the truth about her grandfather’s work, her father’s identity, and why she has never progressed in her career. With little more than a rudimentary plan and hope, she journeys to Berlin and risks everything to free her father and get him out of East Berlin alive.

As Luisa and Haris take turns telling their stories, events speed toward one of the twentieth century’s most dramatic moments—the fall of the Berlin Wall and that night’s promise of freedom, truth, and reconciliation for those who lived, for twenty-eight years, behind the bleak shadow of the Iron Curtain’s most iconic symbol.

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My Review

THE BERLIN LETTERS is a story about a father who remained behind the wall in East Berlin, and his daughter who was given to family and eventually moved away to the United States. It's about a wall and government that isolated its people, and this family's survival despite it all. It's about loss, secrets, fear, working within a corrupt system and freedom. It's about redemption, love and second chances, and is one of the most compelling stories I've read. Highly recommended to historical fiction fans for those who lived through the wall coming down as well as those who did not.

I've been a fan of this author since her debut and have enjoyed each of her books. I began this story with fairly high expectations, expectations that were by far exceeded. The story consistently grew in climax from the beginning towards the very end, with so many wonderful parts in-between. I loved how the author immersed readers in the historical time and setting. I could feel the anxiety and unbelief as the wall appears and the continual struggle in a world of restrictions and danger. I could also feel the stark difference in the United States at the same time. I loved all the historical facts that were weaved throughout this story so well, covering the end of WWII through to the late 1980s. There was so much that fascinated me, intrigued, and pulled on all my emotions. I loved that the author didn't tell me what to think but portrayed multiple sides and a story that organically led to more thoughts and feelings. It was a story that let me live it alongside these characters, sometimes without words. An author has to be truly skilled to be able to convey so much emotion through her characters queues as well as their words.

Here are a few of the places I highlighted as I read:

"Watching Peter and his aunt made me realize I don't want to leave East Berlin. I don't want to leave the DDR. Like my father before me, I want my hometown to change so it is a place where I can live, and thrive, and make choices, and share with my family and friends. Father's opinions cost him his life. I wonder if mine will cost me my life too."

"You can't think that way. We can all get lost with could-haves and should-haves, and they are dead ends."

I loved the characters! From Luisa to her father, to her grandfather, grandmother, and aunt, to her co-worker/friend, plus an old friend who plays a pivotal role and some other side characters. They weren't perfect. They had to improvise and learn to live within what they were given, but at the same time created more in their lives than what they were told they could do. I loved the touch of romance, as well as the themes of forgiveness and faith, even when that faith was in other people.

In the end, was it what I wished for? This book was a political, social and emotional roller-coaster. Wonderful characters and an intriguing plot made for a story that I literally could not put down. It's one of those books that will resonate with all readers long after they've turned the last page. I cannot say enough about this book! Highly, highly recommended!

Content: Some references to violence, rape and torture, but nothing overly descriptively gruesome. Clean.
Source: I received a complimentary copy through Austenprose PR, which did not require a positive review. All opinions are my own.

About the Author

Katherine Reay is a national bestselling and award-winning author who has enjoyed a lifelong affair with books. She publishes both fiction and nonfiction, holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University, and currently lives outside Chicago, Illinois, with her husband and three children. You can meet her at katherinereay.com.

Have you read any of this author's other books? What interests you about this book? Have you read any other books set at least partly in East Berlin?

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