When We Meet Again

Written by Kristin Harmel
Review by Hilary Daninhirsch

I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for stories in which a modern-day character finds a mysterious artifact of family history and embarks on a journey to learn more, one that also leads to self-discovery. While this may not be a new theme for an historical novel, there is nothing formulaic about When We Meet Again, as it is a delight from start to finish.

In the present day, Emily Emerson, who has just lost her job, consciously isolates herself from close relationships, in part stemming from her father having abandoned her and her mother when she was younger. Emily was particularly close to her grandmother, who has recently passed away. Not long after her grandmother’s death, Emily receives an anonymously sent painting of a young woman, who she recognizes as her grandmother, Margaret.

Emily reluctantly allows her estranged father to accompany her to Germany to try to solve the mystery of the painting, who sent it, and why. The story alternates between past and present, as Margaret’s life is recounted. The reader learns some surprising pieces of American history; namely, the existence of German POWs on American soil during World War II. Margaret’s story is heartbreaking, as betrayal after betrayal and circumstance after circumstance caused her life to veer on a path away from love.

Ultimately, the story is about betrayal, forgiveness, and the enduring power of love. At times, Emily is a frustrating character, mostly because the reader is rooting for her to heal her fractured relationships, but she can be quite obstinate. Nonetheless, the story is a gripping one, with fully developed characters and a full-circle resolution.