The Lost Son

Written by Stephanie Vanderslice
Review by Janice Ottersberg

The Lost Son is a story of a mother’s heartbreak and enduring love.  Julia and her new husband, Robert, immigrate to Queens, New York, in 1922.  Robert’s parents, embarrassed by this ill-advised marriage, gifted them tickets to America to leave Stuttgart, Germany.  The main storyline moves easily back and forth through the 1920s to 1945.  In 1927, Julia gives birth to her second son, Nicholas.  Her recovery is difficult, and the aid of a live-in nurse is needed. Suddenly, weeks-old Nicholas is taken from her—to Germany, the letter on the table says.  She races to the docks to get him back.  As the ramp to the last boat is rising, “Nein! Nein! Nein! She screamed, her voice growing jagged and hoarse.”  Nicholas is now far beyond her reach, and the reader is delivered a punch to the heart.

The deep sorrow that shadows her life is the heart of this novel.  She is left alone to raise her older, four-year-old son, Johannes.  Her sister Lena, also in New York, is her only family.  She must rely on her even though their relationship has always been contentious.  Only in unsent letters to her deceased friend is she able to unburden herself.  A lovely, mature romance enriches the novel when a forty-year-old Julia meets Paul, and she is able to open her heart.

As WWII is ending, the army sends Johannes to Germany for the aftermath and recovery.  Julia knows Nicholas is likely a German soldier.  Her emotions swirl inside her: fear for Johannes’ life, belief that Johannes can find his brother, dread for the fate of Nicholas, and hope… always hope.

Avoid reading the blurb; it reveals details of Nicholas’ kidnapping that would lessen the impact of what is coming when the page is turned.  This novel, with its poignant story and vivid writing, is not to be missed.