Friday, August 10, 2012
Review: The Far Side of the Sky by Daniel Kalla
Hardcover, 464 pages Published June 5th 2012 by Tom Doherty Associates (first published September 20th 2011)
ISBN: 0765332337 (ISBN13: 9780765332332)
edition language: English
From the publisher:
November 9, 1938—Kristallnacht—the Nazis unleash a night of terror for Jews all across Germany. Meanwhile, the Japanese Imperial Army rampages through China and tightens its stranglehold on Shanghai, a city that becomes the last haven for thousands of desperate European Jews.
Dr. Franz Adler, a renowned surgeon, is swept up in the wave of anti-Semitic violence and flees to Shanghai with his daughter. At a refugee hospital, Franz meets an enigmatic nurse, Soon Yi “Sunny” Mah. The chemistry between them is intense and immediate, but Sunny’s life is shattered when a drunken Japanese sailor murders her father.
The danger escalates for Shanghai’s Jews as the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. Facing starvation and disease, Franz struggles to keep the refugee hospital open and protect his family from a terrible fate.
The Far Side of the Sky focuses on a short but extraordinary period of Chinese, Japanese, and Jewish history when cultures converged and heroic sacrifices were part of the everyday quest for survival.
My thoughts: This has to be one of the best WWII stories I have read in quite a while. The author, Daniel Kalla, drew me in immediately with the dramatic events of Kristallnacht and the introduction of the main characters. Honestly, I think my heart rate sped up with fear for the fate of Franz, his sister-in-law Esther and his daughter, Hannah, as Jews were being pulled from their homes by the Nazis and murdered for no reason.
As the danger ramps up, Franz and his family frantically try to find a way out of Vienna. It seems every country had slammed their borders shut to emigrating Jews. Securing exit visas for himself, Esther and Hannah, the Adlers find themselves on the way to Shanghai, the only option left open to them. Obviously, they were heartbroken to leave their beloved city of Vienna but safety and survival had to be their first concern.
Shanghai was not to be confused with Shangri-la; once there, as refugees, the Adlers found it difficult to deal with shortages, horrid living conditions and the necessity to make a living. But, they hadn't reckoned on meeting Nazis half way around the world right in their new home or the threat of Japanese occupation and the horrors of war encroaching right on their doorstep.
Kalla brings the characters to life so vividly, I felt like I was there with them. Shanghai is almost another character in the book, the sense of place is so well done, I thought I could feel the atmosphere of a world at war with numerous cultures living side by side trying to survive in the best way possible.
This is not just a story of survival and horrors under difficult situations but also a tender story of courage, love, family and the goodness that can be found in the least unexpected of human hearts along with a theme of underlying hope.
Having read numerous books on WWII with locations mainly in Europe, I was amazed to read that so many Jews along with Nazis ended up in Shanghai. I love the way Kalla took real life events and places and wove such a complex, rich story around them. The inclusion of several other plot lines and minor characters kept me captivated. Even though the book is 460 pages, I could not put it down. The pages just flew by as I was totally engaged the entire time. I loved it! 5*****
About the author: Born, raised, and still residing in Vancouver, Kalla spends his days (and sometimes nights) working as an ER Physician in an urban teaching hospital.
The idea for his first medical thriller, PANDEMIC, sprang from his clinical experience in facing the SARS crisis of 2003. He has written five science thrillers and or medical mysteries, delving into themes and topics as diverse as superbugs, drug addiction, prions, DNA evidence, pandemics and patient abuse. Kalla's sixth book, OF FLESH AND BLOOD, is a medical epic that features a world renowned hospital and two medical families who share a century of love, loss and healing.