Skeletons at the Feast

Written by Chris Bohjalian
Review by Tamela McCann

Once in a while a novel comes along that crawls into your soul from the first page and won’t let go, even long after you’ve read the final word. Your perspective is changed; you’ve been transported to another place and time. Skeletons at the Feast is such a novel.

It begins in Germany during the final months of World War II. The Third Reich is falling apart; the vengeful Russians are invading. The Emmerich family of good and loyal Germans has been living quietly on their estate, raising horses and believing in Hitler’s vision, unaware of his true purpose. They have even been allowed to “keep” a Scottish prisoner of war, Callum, to help around the farm; he and eighteen-year-old Anna, the daughter of the house, have begun a clandestine affair. When the war begins to turn and the family realizes that they must flee or face the terrible retribution of the advancing Russians, Anna, her mother, younger brother, and Callum are forced to leave everything behind. As they forge ahead on foot through bitter cold, they know nothing of the fate of Anna’s father and two older brothers, who are fighting the Allies far away. Along the way, they encounter Uri, an escaped Jew who has been masquerading as a German soldier. With Uri’s protection, they continue their journey; yet as they travel, they begin to realize the atrocities that the Germans have been committing and their own unwitting roles in this holocaust.

The difficulties and even the small triumphs of this group as they trek onward to safety are described in breathtaking detail. With his gift for storytelling, Bohjalian has brought to light the plight of innocent Germans who paid the price for Hitler’s egomaniacal plans. Definitely a keeper, this book is very highly recommended.