The Things We Cannot Say
by Kelly Rimmer
In 1942, Europe remains in the relentless grip of war. Just beyond the tents of the Russian refugee camp she calls home, a young woman speaks her wedding vows. It’s a decision that will alter her destiny…and it’s a lie that will remain buried until the next century.
Since she was nine years old, Alina Dziak knew she would marry her best friend, Tomasz. Now fifteen and engaged, Alina is unconcerned by reports of Nazi soldiers at the Polish border, believing her neighbors that they pose no real threat, and dreams instead of the day Tomasz returns from college in Warsaw so they can be married. But little by little, injustice by brutal injustice, the Nazi occupation takes hold, and Alina’s tiny rural village, its families, are divided by fear and hate. Then, as the fabric of their lives is slowly picked apart, Tomasz disappears. Where Alina used to measure time between visits from her beloved, now she measures the spaces between hope and despair, waiting for word from Tomasz and avoiding the attentions of the soldiers who patrol her parents’ farm. But for now, even deafening silence is preferable to grief.
Slipping between Nazi-occupied Poland and the frenetic pace of modern life, Kelly Rimmer creates an emotional and finely wrought narrative that weaves together two women’s stories into a tapestry of perseverance, loyalty, love and honor. The Things We Cannot Say is an unshakable reminder of the devastation when truth is silenced…and how it can take a lifetime to find our voice before we learn to trust it.
There was nothing to bury, no body to conduct a service over. Instead, we heard that he was gone, and that was that… Nothing had changed, except that nothing was the same anymore, because once I had two brothers, and now I had one… Our oppression was loss without reason, and pain without a purpose.
I didn’t yet understand the horrific depths of the evil of the Nazi agenda— but somehow in the moonlight that night, I felt the loss of humanity, a very pause in the heartbeat of our shared existence on this planet.
War breaks us down to nothing more than our most selfish will to survive— but when we rise above that instinct, miracles can still happen.
Life has a way of shattering our expectations, of leaving our hopes in pieces without explanation. But when there’s love in a family, the fragments left behind from our shattered dreams can always be pulled together again, even if the end result is a mosaic.
This captivating tale was my introduction to the breathtaking storytelling of Kelly Rimmer, and it was an exceptional and epic experience. I was immediately embroiled in the vastly different situations and timelines that consumed and defined Alice and Alina’s worlds, with each storyline cast with curiously and uniquely fascinating characters and circumstances.
The writing was craftily emotive, intriguing, and devastating. I was well and fully hooked and sat riveted to my Kindle while alternating between cringing, sighing, and occasionally gasping and gulping past the hot rocks in my throat. I was wrecked, gutted, and burning with indignation over the well-orchestrated and demonic cruelty perpetrated by the Nazis as a whole and at the individual level.
I cannot begin to imagine the massive amount of research involved to pull all the various historic and profoundly complicated elements together. However, I am even more impressed and completely awed by the elegance and mastery in finessing such a poignant and thoughtfully compelling narrative among the ghastly backdrop of occupied Poland in Alina’s timeline, as well as the emotional challenges and troublesome issues of dealing with a beloved dying family member on top of the harried day to day considerations involved in caring for the specialized needs of a child on the autism spectrum in Alice’s timeline. Ms. Rimmer’s original premise and intensely engaging storylines were brilliantly crafted and flawlessly executed. She has just acquired a rabid fangirl, for life.