The Road Beyond Ruin

Written by Gemma Liviero
Review by Jo Ann Butler

Germany’s surrender to the Allies in May 1945 ended World War II, but Europe’s suffering is scarcely abated. Stefano, a scarred Italian soldier held in Germany as a prisoner of war, is set free, but Berlin is far from home, and Germany’s roads and railways are smashed to rubble. Stefano sets out on foot, surviving on scant rations given him by his liberators, when he discovers a dead woman and infant, and a four-year-old boy temporarily shocked into muteness. The lad clings to Stefano, and they take shelter in a pair of secluded houses.

The buildings appear abandoned, but Stefano is wakened by his shelter’s owner, Erich, a former German soldier. Erich invites the refugees to stay, and Stefano meets his neighbors – war-traumatized Georg, and his nurse-wife, Rosalind. The reticent Rosalind thaws when Stefano repairs her home but evades further questions about her cousin Monique when Stefano asks about the photograph of a young woman hanging on the wall. Then he discovers a packet of Monique’s letters hidden in Erich’s attic, and is drawn irresistibly into a mysterious drama connecting these four people.

Best-selling Australian author Gemma Liviero brings these intriguing persons together in her marvelous historical novel, The Road Beyond Ruin. It’s an elegant literary striptease, in which lucky readers learn that each character keeps a secret, and then another, and another. The reveals keep coming until you reluctantly turn the final pages, and close the cover with a satisfied sigh.