Saturday, 27 August 2016

Review: Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H Balson

FromNazi-occupied Poland to a Chicago courtroom Elliot Rosenzweig, a respected civic leader and wealthy philanthropist, is attending a fundraiser when he is suddenly accosted and accused of being a former Nazi SS officer named Otto Piatek. Although the charges are denounced as preposterous, his accuser, Ben Solomon, is convinced he is right. Solomon urges attorney Catherine Lockhart to take his case, revealing that Otto Piatek was abandoned as a child and raised by Solomon's family only to betray them during the Nazi occupation. But has he accused the right man? Once We Were Brothers is the compelling tale of two boys and a family that struggles to survive in war-torn Poland. It is also the story of a young lawyer who must face not only a powerful adversary, but her own self-doubts. Two lives, two worlds and sixty years all on course to collide in a fast-paced legal thriller. The author, Ronald H. Balson, is a Chicago trial attorney and educator. His practice has taken him to international venues, including small villages in Poland, which have inspired this novel.

Paperback, 379 pages
Published February 15th 2010 by Berwick Court Publishing Co.

Terri's Thoughts

I bought this book years ago and somehow it stayed on my shelf and I never got around to reading it.  I finally picked it up as I try to clean out my to read list.  I wish I had read it sooner.

As this is not a new book, I am sure there are thousands of reviews out there that will cover every aspect of this book so I will not even try to do it justice.

Two things to know before I go any further.  I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and I am an even bigger fan of stories that center around WWII.  You could pretty much guess that the odds were favorable that I would enjoy this book.  I also discovered this book based on a recommendation of other stories that I had given high marks to. thoughts?

Of course I was captivated from the very beginning.  Let's get the parts that didn't sell me right away.  It was the characters if Liam and Catherine in the present day (2004).  While not unlikable, I felt like I was supposed to know them already, that they were previously introduced to the reader.  This of course was not the case so it left me feeling like I was scrambling to play catch up with their storyline and back story.  That being said, in my opinion, they were not the stars of this story so I can easily forgive.

As you would expect, the story of Ben is a tragic one.  So much so that I have sat down to start this review and I couldn't because the story was still with me.  I could not set it aside to jot down any objective thoughts.  Although this is a work of fiction, based on all of the resources out there that describes the Holocaust, you know that these events can happen, have happened and worse.  I am absolutely flabbergasted that the human race is capable of such cruelty.  I am also mortified that we as humans have not learned our lesson from this piece of history.  Turn the news on at any time and there is further evidence of what horrors we are capable of.  I digress, however perhaps this is why this story, and others like it, move me so much?

I have read many wartime stories, each individual in their own right and some with striking similarities.  There is almost always a love story, as was the case in this book.  Ben and Hanna had me cheering for them from the beginning and you knew that the outcome of their story would be tragic.  Every time they dance together I was  anxious knowing that it could potentially be the last.

I didn't know how the story was going to end but I had my suspicions.  While the conclusion was as I thought, I was nonetheless glued to the story to see it played out.  There may even have been a couple of profanities uttered out loud.  I will not share these secrets, they must be read to know.

Ultimately I really enjoyed this book.  Although can I say I enjoyed it when the subject matter is so horrific?  Let me phrase it as this is a book that captured my attention, kept it and then left me thinking about it long after I finished it.  Since I think I may be late to the party on this story, any fan of WWII historical fiction should read it if they have not already.  I wish I had read it sooner.

About the Author

When he’s not writing books, Ron is a practicing attorney with the firm of Stone, Pogrund & Korey in Chicago. He has been a civil litigation attorney for forty-three years. He was an adjunct professor of business law at the University of Chicago, Graduate School of Business for twenty-five years and was a frequent lecturer in the federal bar certification course and in trial advocacy seminars.
The demands of his legal practice have taken Ron into courts all across the United States and Canada, and for deposition testimony all across Europe and Asia. A few years ago, Ron became involved in a commercial dispute concerning telephone service in Poland. Numerous trips to Warsaw and southern Poland provided the inspiration for his first novel, Once We Were Brothers. Ron’s love of history and his travels to the Middle East provided the motivation for his second novel, Saving Sophie.
During the Once We Were Brothers book tour, Ron was introduced to several survivors of the World War II concentration camps. Of all the stories of courage and determination, one woman’s story was so moving that it formed the basis for Karolina’s Twins, Ron’s third book due out in 2016.
Ron was a finalist for the Harper Lee Award for Legal Fiction in 2014 and a finalist for the Premio Bancarella Italian Literature Award in 2014. He was an honoree at the Chicago Public Library Foundation’s Carl Sandburg Literary Award dinner.

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