Title: My Mother’s Secret
Author: J. L. Witterick
“If you choose to do the right thing, it’s a conscious decision at first. Then it becomes second nature. You don’t have to think about what is right, because doing the right thing becomes who you are, like a reflex. Your actions with time become your character,” quotes Helena’s mother in J.L. Witterick’s short novel, My Mother’s Secret.
In one hundred and eighty pages of this powerful paperback book, the first-time fictional author writes matter-of-factly in first person from four individuals’ standpoints during the Holocaust in Sokal, Poland based on the true story of a mother and her daughter who harbored fifteen Jews and one German soldier for twenty months. With no profanity but depictions of war, killing, and human suffering, this would be an ideal tool for understanding compassion, love and sacrifice during the World War Two for middle school aged children and older readers.
In Witterick’s historical tale that is written in short one to five page chapters in simplistic business type format of controlled, structured emotion, Helena is a young sixteen year old girl in Germany with a Nazi sympathizer father and a non-judgmental, outspoken mother and older brother. When Hitler comes in to power, her mother adamantly refuses to be an accomplice to the persecution of Jews and flees with her children to Poland.
While living in a small house on a small farm, Helena procures a secretarial position working for young, handsome German Casmir. Ever the compassionate woman, Helena’s mother hides two Jewish families and one defecting German soldier in the loft above the pig sty, under the kitchen floorboards and in a small attic space for month after month when the Germans overtake their small community.
Jewish Bronek and his wife, her young son and sister escape going to a concentration camp, eight year old Mikolaj and his parents leave their wealthy home and Vilheim no longer wants to be a soldier. Each tells their own yarn how they come to live with Helena and her mother while the war rages around them.
With Helena’s angst to tell Casmir her family’s secrets, her brother’s death and her mother’s true heroism protecting those in her charge, the reader is caught up in the poignant palette of pain, sorrow and persecution that is repainted by courage, love and commitment to others, no matter what the cost.
Like Franciszka Halamajowa and her daughter Helena’s devotion to others, Witterick, a well-respected international money manager president in Canada, freely donates all proceeds from Indigo/Chapters sales to the Love of Reading Foundation.
This book was furnished by the publicist for review purposes.