The Pear Tree

Written by K. M. Sandrick
Review by Ellen Keith

This indie gem is a gripping and historically authentic recounting of the 1942 assassination of Nazi leader Reinhardt Heydrich in Czechoslovakia, the hunting and ruthless destruction of the commandos responsible for the operation, and the bloody aftermath inflicted upon the innocent civilian population of Lidice.

While a number of recent books and movies deal with the events, The Pear Tree is unique in its follow-through. The lives of family members of the Lidice victims are depicted with wrenching emotional relatability as they seek to sift through the remnant evidence of the massacre, and retain what hope they can that some, especially children, may have survived. The book goes well beyond other accounts in covering the aftermath of the assassination and genocide, giving life to the very personal and human perspectives of such characters as firefighter turned resistance fighter Juri Fischer and German policeman Wolfgang Weber. Milan Tichy, a rare young survivor of the Lidice massacre living on the edge of starvation, joins the resistance and uses his newfound power and courage to search for his missing mother. Even the character of Karl Frank, the Nazi officer responsible for the German retaliation, is given a modicum of human conflict as he carries out his hideous acts, reminding us of the uncomfortable fact that these crimes were perhaps most monstrous in that they were not committed by actual monsters.

The novel illustrates that moral ambiguity exists even in the midst of great and unmistakable evil, and that the seeds of societal recovery often lie in small acts of humanity and quiet courage. The best of historical fiction survives fact-checking while bringing to life little-known events and individual human experience. This novel succeeds at all levels. The style is crisp, fast-paced and very readable as it navigates a complex set of events and characters. Highly recommended.