Our Military Life Blog

Books on Review – Forty Autumns

Good day dear readers! I hope that this month has started off fantastic for you! The weather is finally falling into the perfect rhythm.. for books!! I am enjoying the afternoons of reading and relaxing! But I cannot wait to share this latest book with you! It is one that is full of hope, despair, and enduring family ties. But I must let the author tell the majority of this story, as it is one that you will not want to miss!! One lucky person will win a FREE copy of this book from me! All you have to do is tell me what you would have done if you had been in Hanna’s shoes! Email me at bookclub@mymilitarysavings.com OR comment on the blog below!


With the end of World War II, Germany is fixing to see major changes. Some are benign, but others are going to rock families and uproot others. With the division of East and West Germany, the parties begin to split, and ideals have changed. Hanna and her family are on the east side of Germany, and they are hoping and praying for the best outcome. Waiting for their father and brother to come back from the war, there is talk of fleeing into the western side, but Oma puts her foot down and refuses to leave. How could she, being pregnant, and without being able to leave word of where they would be, it just won’t work. As time progresses, Hanna is pushed to make an attempt to leave the area, but she falters, and after jumping out of the truck and away from the American soldiers, returns home. But it is not long before things start to become harder, and the idea of trying to escape builds again.

Hanna is a free spirit, relishing her independence, but living under a communist party which puts forth rules and decrees, hoping to keep the masses in line and content. For a while it works, but there is always the underlying dissent which is quickly cracked down. When Hanna finally makes a break for freedom, her family are the ones that will pay the price for her defection, and come under tighter scrutiny. Her actions have threatened her father’s job, and the financial security of the family, but she is free. It is several years before her mother is able to even visit her for an afternoon. While Hanna is working and enjoying herself, the rest of the family is working hard and learning to keep their heads down. Opa, Hanna’s father, however is finding it harder and harder to fall on the party line and keep his thoughts to himself. He dances the fine line for many years, trying his best to keep in tune with what they are wanting, but not really believing the new histories they are teaching. For a learned man, he suffers under the constraints, pushing and pulling as much as he can, without completely ruining the family.

Hanna has since married and moved to the United States. Her husband, a soldier in the United States Army has no family of his own, so he and Hanna come together, both understanding the loss of family. While they raise their children, they do their best to  keep in touch with the family, but it is not always easy to get letters through. Mail is monitored, and anything that is deemed dangerous is thrown away. Some letters get through, and slowly they begin to rebuild the family bonds. Slowly the seeds of dissent are growing, but as Oma says “Truth will prevail, and justice will win” (pg. 215).

Nina Willner does a fantastic job of weaving together her family history, and bringing to the forefront the struggle that many families endured during the many years of the Iron Curtain. The poverty, food shortages, and other deprivations that the East Germans lived through for forty years makes one mind swim. Through it all the Communist Party kept up a steady stream of dialogue, ensuring their populace that things were fine and not to listen to the news coming out of the West. They were to remain faithful to the party. The enduring threads of hope, love, loss and triumph are evident through the pages of this story. While you can see the family pride shining through, Nina Willner does not gloss over the issues at hand, rather she takes the time to document and preserve the struggle that millions of people lived through, and eventually triumphed over.

You can learn more about Nina Willner and find her book here:

Author Links: WebsiteFacebook, and Twitter

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Photo by Julia Forsman