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.
©2016 Amy Harmon. (P)2016 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.
Tired teacher. That is, REtired teacher.
It was a good book, although sometimes predictable, sometimes too coincidental. I did enjoy it though and many times found myself a little eager to get back to it. That is always a good sign. There is so much incredible sadness in any Holocaust novel and this was no exception. What I did find interesting (and disgusting) was the degree to which Jews in Italy had to withstand the same atrocities that their German counterparts did, although not to the same staggering numbers. Still it was way too much. I will never understand how human beings can be so incredibly evil toward one another.
Like so many Holocaust survivors, those who lived through it were able to pull together a happy life, even though their basic personhood would never be the same and so many of the people close to them had had their lives ended in Auschwitz, or some equally despicable place. I guess you could say this is a sad-happy novel, as one written on the lives of most holocaust survivors could be described.
Beautifully written and well narrated.
One little annoyance to me, however, was the many references to the music of Chopin by an accomplished violinist. Chopin almost exclusively wrote for the piano. His violin literature is minuscule. He was also referred to as a German composer which is erroneous. He was Polish. He is hardly the composer a violinist would dream of and cling to. There were so many other composers of much great violin music the author could have chosen.
“Our immortality comes through our children and their children. Through our roots and branches. The family is immortality. And Hitler has destroyed not just branches and roots, but entire family trees, forests. All of them, gone.”The year is 1943 and World War II Nazi-occupied Italy played its part in the persecution, deportation, and ultimate murder of the Jewish people. However, Amy Harmon manages to incorporate so much beauty in this very dark time. From Sand and Ash is full of contrasts: life/death, hope/defeat, courage/fear, compliance/rebellion, faith/doubt, love/rejection, desire/restraint... the list goes on. But such is this magical life – we cannot survive the depths without having at least a flicker of light, and even more so when the world is at war and a beautiful people are being destroyed simply because they exist.Amy Harmon has created incredibly human characters full of complexities. She has also replicated the palpable emotions that coincide with tragic times, but the themes of family, love, and resiliency shine through. For me, this was an incredibly rich reading experience that gave me hope. Hope that with every negative, a positive can be found and with every person full of evil intent, there will be another who will choose to do the right thing. I loved this book ♥My favorite quote:“Fear is strange. It settles on chests and seeps through skin, through layers of tissue, muscle, and bone and collects in a soul-sized 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.”
Jojo Moyes The Girl You Left Behind and Kristin Hannah The Nightingale. Similar wartime settings. Choosing to do the right thing. Themes of loyalty and family.
"From sand and ash, rebirth. From sand and ash, new life. With every song and with every prayer, with every small rebellion, she vowed to push back, to make glass from the ashes." -Amy Harmon
Say something about yourself!
I must be expecting too much from books. This had a nice story but I would have liked more - of what I do not know. It does shine some light on what happened to Jewish families under Nazi rule. Otherwise it is a love story.
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I haven’t read a WWII era book since high school. I am not a lover of sad and ugly cry books. I read to be happy. But I read so many people saying that From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon was a favorite of the year that I decided I could use a change of pace, and I grabbed the Audible version. I’ve not read Amy Harmon before because she is known for ugly cries, but after listening to From Sand and Ash, I bought two more Amy Harmon audible books immediately.
First of all, I need to start by talking about the narration. This is one book where the audible version has got to be even better than the regular. The narrator did an AMAZING job of taking Eva from a young girl to a mature woman, as well as using Italian, Yiddish, German and French accents so perfectly it just enhanced an already incredible story.
Next, the story. Yes, it’s an epic forbidden romance, but it is SO MUCH MORE. It’s a history lesson disguised in a compelling, emotional story based on true events. There are a lot of stories that take place during the holocaust, but most take place in Germany or Poland. I honestly did not realize how many Italian Jews there were, and what happened to them during the war. It felt good to really learn something while doing what I love (reading), and this inspired me to pick up more books like this where I can learn and not just escape.
"Why do people hate us so much?"
Eva Roselli is Italian. Her family is Jewish, but they are not religious. They don’t attend temple, but they still follow the Jewish traditions. Angelo Bianco was 12 when he was sent from America to live with his grandparents who worked for the Roselli’s in Italy. At 12 he already was slated to be a Priest, going to Catholic school and then the seminary. There was no other path for him, it was what he was born and raised to do. Angelo and Eva grew up together. She loved him and he loved her, but knew he had to avoid any situation where that love gets out of control. His first commitment is to God, and as a Priest in training, there is no other love allowed.
"I never really thought about being Jewish until I started to be persecuted for it."
Amy Harmon did an excellent job of showing how little things that may seem like nothing at first can snowball into bigger and bigger things. To read about how first non-Jews couldn’t work for Jews, then Jews couldn’t own businesses or go to school, Jews couldn’t marry non-Jews, then Jews couldn’t vacation where they had their whole lives. Instead of running, the thoughts that it couldn’t get worse, or that the Pope would step in kept the Italian Jews in Italy waiting it out. But it did get worse. Much worse, as the Jews began to be rounded up.
"They can humiliate us and dehumanize us. But they cannot take our thoughts. They cannot take our talents. They cannot take our knowledge, or our memories, or our minds."
As the war gets worse and worse, somehow despite the horrors, Amy Harmon is able to weave hope into the story, and pride in the characters who did everything they could to help.
"Fear is strange.
It settles on chests and seeps through skin, through layers of tissue, muscle, and bone and collects in a soul-sized 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."
Angelo loves Eva. but he knows he can do more to help as a priest than anything else. I had no idea how much the Catholic Church did to help the Jews during the war. But the Nazis weren’t picky. They were rounding up priests and anyone who helped the Jews.
"Eva is just a girl. She wasn’t given a choice.
The Jewish people have been stripped of choice. They have been stripped of liberty. They have been stripped of dignity. And they cannot save themselves."
Who will help them? Angelo saw his Eva in every Jew. He worked tirelessly to help Jews, get them fake papers, get them out of Italy or hide them as best they could. But it wasn’t just the Jews who lived in fear, it was everyone. Still, Angelo lived his life to protect Eva. All he wanted was her to hide out and be safe.
Eva was so strong. There was no way, no matter how much she loved Angelo (even though she could never have him) that she would sit by and hide, so she fought and did everything possible to help fight the horrors.
My goodness. We think things are bad in the world? We think our lives suck? Read this and believe me, you will thank your lucky stars for everything we have. The fact that these horrors happened recently enough that people are still alive from that time is just unbelievable to me, and similar things still happen today.
From Sand and Ash was filled with suspense and action, but at the heart of it was the love between a Jewish girl and an Italian priest. It never felt sordid or wrong. In war, you grasp at anything to bring some light into your life, and their love was the only light they had.
"With our hands, we reach for things we shouldn't have and we grasp what isn't ours. The way I have always reached for you."
•While the characters were fiction, the events were true.
•How much I learned about Italy in WWII.
•Gripping and emotional it was completely unputdownable.
•How despite the hopelessness and despair, there was always a thread of hope and love that ran through the story.
•The narration was some of the best I have ever heard with the narrator doing Italian, Yiddish, French and German accents.
•The way the music was tied into the story.
•There was just enough romance to make this a romance book, but it was way, way more than that.
•The priest and a woman part of the story never felt sordid or wrong.
•There was no shielding us from the horrors and brutality that really happened.
•I obviously dislike that any of this happened in real life, but there is absolutely nothing to dislike from this book.
The Down & Dirty:
From Sand and Ash is one of the most important books I have read since I began blogging. I feel like everyone should read it. The more we know about the past, the more we can recognize if it starts again in the future. The horrors of WWII are not sugar coated in any way, and Amy Harmon transports you to Italy during all of the events. There was so much background, and you know the characters so well that you feel like you are Eva. I literally felt her fear, and as I write this, I am flashing back to moments in the book and I’m crying again. Being Jewish, this story also helped me understand a bit more of my parents, who were children during this time. But you don’t have to be Jewish to relate and connect to this book. I honestly think From Sand and Ash should be required reading for high school students the way The Diary of Anne Frank is for elementary.
My words can’t do a book like this justice, but I can tell you that it will not only be on my best of 2016 list, but my all-time favorite list. Amy Harmon is an author that has been recommended so many times. I have several of her books on my Kindle, and just purchased more of her audiobooks. If they are even half as good as From Sand to Ash they will be 5 star reads for me.
Rating 5+++ Stars, Narration 5+++ stars
A wonderful story of love and redemption. The treatment of the Jews in Italy was hard to read. I hope the church was as helpful as described in this story.
Definitely Amy Harmon’s finest work and I have enjoyed all of her books thus far. There were so many things I loved about this book but writing stands out the most. Amy Harmon’s storytelling was so intense, visceral and poignant. This story was set in Italy starting before the German invasion and lasted for the Nazi occupation of the Italy. It was such a dark and depressing historical period, but the author managed weave a tale of love, hope, faith and loyalty.
Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco were childhood best friends despite being her being Jewish and him being Catholic. Despite their affection for each other, Angelo decided that he could best serve God as a priest.
“God makes me strong. He gives me courage. He gives me peace. He gives me purpose.”
As Angelo joined the priesthood, Eva began navigating life in Italy where Jews were stripped of every conceivable right of citizenship despite the Jews “making up 1% of the countries population”. At her darkest hour, Angelo took in Eva and some other family friends to hid them, but it endangered all the priests around.
Angelo was forced to consider what his life would be like if the Nazi’s were to find Eva and the other Jews that the priests were protecting. While Eva struggles to survive, she was also forced to deal with the fact that the man she loved chose to be a priest over a life with her.
This story was both inspiring, enlightening and emotionally POWERFUL. Every time I felt despondent, a gestured or an event occurred that contributed some reason for hope and encouragement.
“Hope is the only thing resistant to the fear, and it is the hope that makes the next breath possible, the next step, the next tiny act of rebellion, even if that rebellion is simply staying alive.”
The author didn’t mislead the readers by painting a rosy picture of war times. But those tendrils of devotion and faithfulness kept me optimistic as I listened to tale. The narrator Cassandra Campbell was excellent in her various accented voices. She was a great choice for this book.
I loved both Eva and Angelo for different reasons. Both were strong characters, loving, honest and altruistic. Eva though just stole my heart. She had a clarity about almost everything. She was decisive and even stubborn. Angelo was so endearing because he truly tried to honor his faith even if he had to sacrifice his own heart. I admired his commitment and his perseverance. The author did an amazing job developing these characters as well as the overall plot. I never felt that the author sacrificed the historical plight of the people in favor of a love story. It made everything feel so much more authentic and genuine. I am always amazed at the blessings that occurred despite immense suffering during the tragedies of war. This story was one of the best written historical fiction novels I have ever read.
It's just a good story - nothing fancy or overly complicated. I liked the characters and particularly liked that the book is set in Florence and Rome because I've spent a good amount of time in both cities.
Either Ava or Angelo; maybe both.
It's not feasible for me to finish a book in one sitting because I listen during my daily commute but I really did want to know what was going to happen next in the story.
The narrator read Angelo with an Italian accent but he was born in NJ and lived there until he was 10 or 11 so he would have sounded like an American, I think.
Heartbreaking, haunting, and unfortunately horrific...I expect nothing less from an Amy Harmon book. My emotions go on a rollercoaster ride with every story. I love history and there were so many details I didn't know about Italy in WWII. Eva and Angelo stole my heart. I hope to listen to this again.
I now have another favorite narrator. Cassandra Campbell is amazing!! The story was brought to life by this brilliant narrator.
Thank you Amy for writing such an incredible novel.
I read an ARC of this book in November. I love everything Amy Harmon writes. This was my first venture into historical romance. I was a good way through the book when I saw a post where Amy mentioned taking your time to absorb the story. That's not how I generally read, and not how I had read to that point.
When the book officially released at the beginning of December, I bought the ebook and audio versions (both pre-orders) as well as a few copies for gifts. I started listening to the audio on my work commute, which is only 30-45 minutes per day. So this time around, I definitely had plenty of time to absorb. Now that I've finished the reread, I'm ready to share my thoughts.
The amount of research Amy put into this novel to include all the details that make the story perfect is nothing short of amazing. I'm not a history lover, but my husband is. I found myself discussing events and other things I had read in the book with him. I even dreamed about the setting and about things I had read, more than once. The character development really makes you embrace the people in the story. And the narration is absolutely spot on! I enjoyed my first read, but I loved my audio reread.
Eva and Angelo's story is not an easy one. There's nothing easy about war. This isn't a light and fluffy book. But it's so worth it. I went in blind, knowing nothing more than that the softy was set during WW2, and trusting Amy to take me to wonderful places. As always, she does not disappoint.
Set aside and preconceived notions that you may have about historical romance or war stories. Open your mind and just start reading. Talk your time and enjoy it. Fall in love. You won't regret it!
The narration was spot on. Story tells of a Young Jewish Italian girl during world War two. It is essentially a romance with her love interest being a catholic priest. I enjoyed every minute of it.
Not only was the story line captivating but the narrator was amazing, she spoke so well it made listening gripping and realistic. Great book!
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