I've drawn the connection. The reason I give such high ratings to books that make me cry is because, to do that, they have to draw me in so that I make an emotional connection to the characters. If I genuinely care about them, almost like real people, then their heartaches and triumphs are things I feel as I read.
That said, I picked up Strength to Endure last night around 11 PM. I finished it at 1:30 AM. And for the first time in my life, I cried all the way through the book. Tears just fell as I read, sliding down my cheeks and mingling with my hair on the pillow. Never has a book generated such a consistent emotional response from me. It's an incredible story. If I could give it 6 stars (on a scale of 1 to 5), I would in a heartbeat.
The story starts out with Anneliese Klein as a young girl in Germany just as Hitler rises to power. I knew going in that a historical fiction novel set in Germany before and during WW II was not going to be a romp through the clover fields. But Tristi brings the beauty and horrors to life vividly. I remember my history classes. I knew about concentration camps and death camps like Auschwitz, and how people were rounded up and taken away from their homes and friends never to be seen again. But seeing these things happen through the eyes of Anneliese as she grows up changed me. And the part of the book where the story transitions from Anneliese's perspective to Hilde's perspective made me bawl. I saw it coming, but cried like a baby through two chapters anyway.
In all honesty, at one point I wiped my eyes and wondered why I was putting myself through this torture. But of course by then the story had me so absolutely, I had to finish the book and find out what happens. And Tristi didn't disappoint me there, either.
I do not have ancestors who were personally affected by what happened in Germany while Hitler was in power. There's no one in my past who can tell me what they experienced or witnessed during that time. But I did have a Jewish friend growing up, and we talked about it at length. From a historical aspect, everything in this book resonates with truth. Although the story is fiction, the things that happen gel with what I know about WW II and brought it all down to a very personal level.
Strength to Endure is an amazing book. I can't say enough about it. It's the kind of book that may change the reader, but it's a worthy change.