Title – From Sand and Ash
Author – Amy Harmon
Publication Date – December 1, 2016
Italy, 1943—Germany occupies much of the country, placing the Jewish population in grave danger during World War II.
As children, Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco were raised like family but divided by circumstance and religion. As the years go by, the two find themselves falling in love. But the church calls to Angelo and, despite his deep feelings for Eva, he chooses the priesthood.
Now, more than a decade later, Angelo is a Catholic priest and Eva is a woman with nowhere to turn. With the Gestapo closing in, Angelo hides Eva within the walls of a convent, where Eva discovers she is just one of many Jews being sheltered by the Catholic Church.
But Eva can’t quietly hide, waiting for deliverance, while Angelo risks everything to keep her safe. With the world at war and so many in need, Angelo and Eva face trial after trial, choice after agonizing choice, until fate and fortune finally collide, leaving them with the most difficult decision of all.
I’m having the hardest time formulating words that describe how much I loved From Sand and Ash. Amy Harmon has brought speckles of light to such a dark time in history through compelling characters and a riveting storyline. I’m not normally a historical fiction reader, but if they make my heart race and butterflies flutter in my stomach like this standalone did, maybe I should look into more of them. From Sand and Ash is a brilliantly poignant story that I know will leave readers breathless time and time again.
“We can cause pain, but we can so seldom cure it.”
One of the things that really struck me about this novel was the very nature of the subject. Though they were fictional characters, the historical setting brought them to life in a very real way. It may not have been these particular people experiencing what was described, but history tells us that there were people who hid Jews, those who sacrificed themselves for those they loved, others who said goodbye to family or friends to never see them again. I think that context made the book very emotional, but in a personal way. It breathed life into a story in such a touching, unforgettable manner.
“Fear is strange. It settles on chests and seeps through skin, through layers of tissue, muscle, and bone, and collects in a soul-size black hole, sucking the joy out of life, the pleasure, the beauty. But not the hope. Somehow, the hope is the only thing resistant to the fear, and it is that hope that makes the next breath possible, the next step, the next tiny act of rebellion, even if that rebellion is simply staying alive.”
Eva was such a strong, determined personality. She embodied the term “survivor” in every imaginable sense of the word. She fought with everything that she had and everything she stood for, never relenting. There was something about her tenacity that resonated with me and I loved her for it. Angelo also personified strength and character; a devote man who had to go on his own path to discover his true beliefs. I absolutely adored his moments of resistance and pieces of struggle. It made him human and so easy to feel empathy and compassion for.
“But we have to live in order to learn. And sometimes we have to fight in order to live.”
From Sand and Ash is not only one of the best reads I have encountered in 2016, but it has easily become one of my all-time favorites. The story is rich with emotion and filled with breathtaking moments that left me wanting the story to never end. It’s the first book I’ve come across that I had to stop to let my heart breathe, yet when I tore myself away, my heart ached for nothing but more. Amy Harmon has written a masterpiece that I’m sure readers will fall in love with time and time again. If you’re looking for a special read, From Sand and Ash is unequivocally one of the best out there.
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