Historical Fiction Book Review: The Medallion
About the BookTitle: The Medallion
Author: Cathy Gohlke
Genre: Historical Fiction (World War II)
Release date: June 4, 2019
For fans of bestselling World War II fiction like Sarah’s Key and The Nightingale comes an illuminating tale of courage, sacrifice, and survival, about two couples whose lives are ravaged by Hitler’s mad war yet eventually redeemed through the fate of one little girl.
Seemingly overnight, the German blitzkrieg of Warsaw in 1939 turns its streets to a war zone and shatters the life of each citizen—Polish, Jewish, or otherwise. Sophie Kumiega, a British bride working in the city’s library, awaits news of her husband, Janek, recently deployed with the Polish Air Force. Though Sophie is determined that she and the baby in her womb will stay safe, the days ahead will draw her into the plight of those around her, compelling her to help, whatever the danger.
Rosa and Itzhak Dunovich never imagined they would welcome their longed-for first child in the Jewish ghetto, or that they would let anything tear their family apart. But as daily atrocities intensify, Rosa soon faces a terrifying reality: to save their daughter’s life, she must send her into hiding. Her only hope of finding her after the war—if any of them survive—is a medallion she cuts in half and places around her neck.
Inspired by true events of Poland’s darkest days and brightest heroes, The Medallion paints a stunning portrait of war and its aftermath, daring us to believe that when all seems lost, God can make a way forward.
The Medallion, by Cathy Gohlke, is a thoroughly breathtaking novel. Within the pages of this book, Ms. Gohlke has composed a heart-wrenching and profoundly moving story of loss, redemption, love, and family. This is a novel that courageously explores humanity’s capacity for love and hate, hope and despair, self-sacrifice and cruelty, perseverance and struggle, and faithfulness and uncertainty. With unflinching skill, Ms. Gohlke leads the reader on an intense journey through horrific events that test the resiliency of the human heart and the human will to fight for significance and survival. Yet, this journey through and beyond tragedy and despair is fastidiously bolstered and uplifted by authentic moments of grace and gentle reminders that hope, healing, and restoration are ultimately made possible through God’s mercy and unconditional love.
With buildings ravaged by bombs and cities under the tyranny of the Nazi regime, the uncertainty of daily life in Poland during WWII becomes unfathomable, especially for the persecuted Jewish people and those committed to helping them. It is within this setting that the characters come alive to the reader. In their raw vulnerability and heartrending authenticity, the characters are simply captivating. Their fears, their needs, their desires, and their actions are wholly believable and gripping. The opportunities, the choices, and the trials that the characters endure are intricately developed, and from them there unfurls a story that is extremely poignant, emotionally-stirring, and thought-provoking.
The Medallion is truly an outstanding novel from the first word to the last. Ms. Gohlke’s talent for storytelling is impeccable. Her writing is well-researched, descriptive, and incredibly immersive. Within every paragraph and page there is deep meaning, real truth, and thoughtful purpose. This remarkably tender story is relevant, fascinating, and unforgettable. I recommend it wholeheartedly.
*I received a copy of this novel through Celebrate Lit and NetGalley. The review I have written is voluntary and contains opinions that are entirely my own.
At times, this novel, so shocking and so tragic, broke my heart. I wept and I grieved for those who actually lived this story beyond the world of ink on paper. As revealed throughout history, and as depicted in the pages of this book, the human capacity for evil is beyond my fathoming. Yet, the human capacity for compassion and self-sacrifice is equally striking. This book also reveals that where there is unwarranted hatred and oppression, there will always be those who purposefully risk much to oppose such injustice and cruelty.
Throughout this novel, Cathy Gohlke also illustrates the capacity of God’s love to heal wounded hearts and broken lives. This story never fails to affirm the promise that God is near to everyone at all times. It is He who makes a way when no way can be found. Even in moments of regret, even in situations that seem desperately bleak, and even in the midst of significant terror and peril there can be found an unshakeable hope when trust is placed securely in the promises of an eternal God.
There are certainly alarming, disturbing, and heart-breaking moments in this extraordinary novel. Yet, as the sun sparkles through a stained glass window made from broken shards and pieces, the light of God’s grace, glory, and redemption shines through the fragments of despair and illuminates a hope, a restoration, and a justice unlike anything else. At all times and in all places, the radiance of God’s compassionate, miraculous care is always present as it glows with mercy, forgiveness, and renewal.
About the Author: Cathy Gohlke
Three-time Christy and two-time Carol and INSPY Award–winning and bestselling author Cathy Gohlke writes novels steeped with inspirational lessons, speaking of world and life events through the lens of history. She champions the battle against oppression, celebrating the freedom found only in Christ. Cathy has worked as a school librarian, drama director, and director of children’s and education ministries. When not traveling to historic sites for research, she, her husband, and their dog, Reilly, divide their time between northern Virginia and the Jersey Shore, enjoying time with their grown children and grandchildren. Find her on Facebook at CathyGohlkeBooks.
More from Cathy
Every story begins with a journey. Sharing that journey is twice the joy.
The Medallion was inspired by two true stories—the first was the WWII account of Itzhak Dugin and his Jewish family, persecuted in Lithuania. Their heart-wrenching story made world news when the tunnel from which Itzhak escaped the Nazis was discovered using modern technology.
The second was the story of Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic social worker within Żegota (an underground Polish Council to Aid Jews), who developed a network to rescue children. Despite terrible risks, they smuggled 2500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto and certain death at the hands of the Nazis, then hid them in Polish homes, convents, churches and hospitals until the end of the war. Approximately 2,000 of those children were found after the war. Theories abound regarding the whereabouts of those missing. I couldn’t help but wonder, and imagine: What became of those 400 to 500 missing children? What became of one?
Set in WWII Poland and post-war England, The Medallion is a story of courage, sacrifice, love, forgiveness and redemption.
To celebrate her tour, Cathy is giving away a grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra into the giveaway!
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