cover image The Wish Child

The Wish Child

Catherine Chidgey. Counterpoint (PGW, dist.), $26 (384p) ISBN 978-1-6400-9097-2

This inventive historical from Chidgey (The Strength of the Sun) begins in 1995 with elderly Sieglinde, who goes by “Siggi,” working on a puzzle: reconstructing stories from the lives of Germans during WWII through letters intercepted by the Nazis. In doing so, she begins to recollect her life in 1939 Berlin, where her middle-class family toes the Nazi line under the direction of her father, a government censor. Back then, on a farm near Leipzig, young Erich Kröning is growing up with less privilege but a great sense of peace as he spends his days tending to bees. Firmly entrenched in Nazi ideology, both families believe the Führer has their best interests in mind despite the escalating war. As the war rages on, the Allied forces close in, and Siggi and Erich are forced into the center of Berlin. Meeting in the bombarded city, they must work together if they hope to survive and set up camp in an abandoned theater. The story is told through multiple viewpoints, with one perspective, “the wish child,” hovering omnisciently over Siggi and Erich’s journey and propelling the story—and Germany as a whole—toward closure after the horrific war. Although the narrative-switching creates a distance, the contrast of voices provides a detailed portrait of Siggi and Erich’s fractured lives. Fans of The Book Thief will enjoy Chidgey’s delicate and elegant novel. (Oct.)