The Things We Cannot Say

Written by Kelly Rimmer
Review by Hilary Daninhirsch

Straddling the past and the present, The Things We Cannot Say is a mesmerizing tale of family, memory, forgiveness, and unconditional love, but it is also about retrieving lost stories.

Alina is an innocent young Polish country girl whose country is in the midst of World War II. She knows she is destined to marry Tomasz but must wait for him as he attends college in Warsaw. Although she thinks her pocket of the world is insulated from Nazi brutalities, that, unfortunately, proves to be untrue. Suddenly, everything she thought she had to look forward to in her life is in jeopardy.

In the present day, Alice is a stressed-out wife and mother of two children—a precocious daughter and a nonverbal autistic son. Although she is married, she might as well be a single mother, as her husband is not an involved parent, choosing to occupy himself with work rather than bond with the children. In the meantime, Alice’s Babcia (grandmother) has had a stroke and cannot communicate verbally, but using her grandson’s voice-assisted app, she transmits urgent messages to her granddaughter: Find Tomasz and Babcia fire Tomasz. Although she does not understand Babcia’s command or what she’s even supposed to be looking for, Alice travels to Poland to help unravel a decades-old family mystery, while simultaneously seeking healing and solace for her own broken life.

The book examines relationships between spouses, between parent and child, and the powerful connections between families separated by decades. Strong, resilient women dominate this book, along with a compelling storyline and a message of hope. The Things We Cannot Say is a true achievement in World War II fiction.