The Vanishing Sky

L. Annette Binder. Bloomsbury, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-1-63557-467-8
Binder’s debut novel (after the collection Rise) follows Etta and Josef Huber and their sons Max and Georg in rural Germany during WWII. Before Georg, a bookish 15-year-old, is sent to a Hitler Youth academy, he secretly watches a Roma camp by the river, hoping in vain that the women’s dancing will spark the socially acceptable carnal desire for the opposite sex that he knows his strict and punitive father expects of him. (Meanwhile, Georg would rather be studying Greek and Latin than join with the fascists.) Binder then alternates between Georg’s life at the academy, where he sees the damage suffered by bombing victims and wishes he could go home like them; and Max returned from the front, tormented by headaches and emotionally shattered. After Georg kisses a boy he’d befriended, he sets out alone for home. Binder, who left Germany for the U.S. as a child, based her book partly on her father’s experiences in the Hitler Youth organization and on her paternal grandfather’s journals from between the wars, and describes the war’s toll on German soldiers and civilians while lingering on an eerie, subtle irony in descriptions of Jews, Roma, gays, and people with mental illnesses, whose dire circumstances their neighbors were blissfully unaware of. This provides a fresh take on the madness of war. (June)
Reviewed on : 04/08/2020
Release date: 06/09/2020
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-63557-704-4
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