Author: Naomi Ragen
Published by: St. Martin's Griffin on Sep. 12, 2023
Genres: Historical Fiction
Source: St. Martin's Press
Book Rating: 9/10
Inspired by true events, Naomi Ragen’s The Enemy Beside Me is a powerful, provocative novel about two people fighting for reconciliation over unforgivable crimes of the past.
Taking over from her father and grandfather as the head of the Survivor’s Campaign, an organization whose purpose is to bring Nazi war criminals to justice, Milia Gottstein has dedicated her life to making sure the voices of Holocaust victims will never be silenced. It is an overwhelming and heartbreaking mission that has often usurped her time and energy being a wife to busy surgeon Julius, and a mother and grandmother. But now, just as she is finally ready to pass on her work to others, making time for her personal life, an unexpected phone call suddenly explodes all she thought she knew about her present and her future.
In the midst of this personal turmoil, Milia receives an invitation to be the keynote speaker at a Holocaust conference in Lithuania from Dr. Darius Vidas, the free spirited, rebellious conference head. Despite suspecting his motives―she is, after all, viewed as a ‘public enemy’ in that country for her efforts to have them try war criminals and admit their historic responsibility for annihilating almost their entire Jewish community, including her own family―she nevertheless accepts, having developed a secret agenda of her own. But as Milia and Darius begin their mission, shared experiences profoundly alter their relationship, replacing antagonism and suspicion with a growing intimacy. However, this only ramps up the hostile forces facing them, threatening their families, livelihoods, and reputations, and forcing them into shocking choices that will betray all they have achieved and all that has grown between them.
Thought-provoking, moving, and immersive!
The Enemy Beside Me is an insightful, poignant tale that takes you into the life of Milia Gottstein, a Jewish woman and current head of the Survivors’ Campaign, an organization previously run by her father and grandfather, who reluctantly heads to Lithuania to speak at a Holocaust conference to make sure that the Lithuanian people of today have a clear understanding of the actual role their citizens played and the atrocious acts they committed against their own neighbours and community members contrary to what they’ve always been taught to believe.
The prose is sobering and expressive. The characters are troubled, brave, and strong. And the plot is an enthralling, hopeful tale about life, love, strength, deception, injustice, guilt, loss, shame, respect, passion, truth, understanding, and acknowledgement.
Overall, The Enemy Beside Me is ultimately a heart-wrenching, affecting, pensive tale by Ragen based on real-life events that highlights the extreme hardships, suffering, and horrors endured during a heinous time in history when millions of lives were violated, taken, and senselessly lost, and reminds us that our greatest power against such evil, truly, is knowledge and never, ever to forget.
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Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for gifting me a copy in exchange for an honest review.