How Far the Road Home
During World War II, a half-million German, Italian, and Japanese prisoners of war were held in camps on American soil. Until the war’s end, they worked in factories and on farms and roads. Set in Colorado in the early 1940s, How Far the Road Home utilizes multiple points of view to tell the story of American farm girl Celena Walker and her romantic attachment to German POW, Ernst Halder, who is working on her parents’ wheat farm.
The plot is multifaceted; appealing characters abound. Will Celena marry the American soldier to whom she is engaged, or will she find happiness with her new love, Ernst? Will Captain Jackie Forrest, an undercover Army Intelligence Officer, stop the Nazi assassin incarcerated at the camp from escaping and turning the war into a Nazi victory? Gifford ably weaves these threads of the story with the intriguing facts surrounding the clandestine activities within the camps. Although the behavior of the lagergestapo, the soldiers loyal to Hitler within Gifford’s fictional camp, is chilling, clearly the German Democrats held there want only to take Germany back from the Nazis and reclaim their homeland.
These days it seems novels require a descriptive hook to attract readers; unfortunately, the one given this book is particularly unnecessary and misleading (Eye of the Needle meets Cold Mountain; it doesn’t). The comparison is a disservice to an entertaining and often tender novel capable of standing on its own feet. Gifford’s war research (in a neat turn, this includes the Civil War as well as WWII) seems meticulous, and his excellent historical note is compelling as he describes how, for example, some Americans befriended POWS who worked for them and officially sponsored the several thousand German soldiers who filed for and received U. S. citizenship after the war.