Sigrid MacRae’s A World Elsewhere: An American Woman in Wartime Germany is the true story of her parents and her family during World War II. Her father was a German baron born in Russia and left penniless after the 1917 Russian Revolution. Her mother was wealthy American born to privilege in Connecticut. Both of parents had wandering spirits and they met in Paris in 1927. It wasn’t long before they were married.
As everyone should know, Germany wasn’t the best place in the world to be during the 1930s when Adolf Hitler was consolidating power and spreading his reach beyond German borders. For a poor baron who wanted nothing more than to work in diplomatic circles, it was bound not to turn out well. With few options and six children to support, Sigrid’s father joined the German army and was soon killed on the Russian Front.
The rest of the story belongs solely to Sigrid’s mother, Aimee. Having supported her family on her inheritance, she finds herself cut off as war rages on. And as it ends, she dreams of going back to America, of taking her children to the safety of their home. The Soviet advance on Germany makes getting out all the more important. American laws get in the way, though, and prevent her from taking all of her children home. So she spends years struggling to survive, years struggling to put her family back together, and finally years more struggling to find her place again as an American woman.
There’s a lot to be learned from this book, things you won’t hear on documentaries or see in books. Through the eyes of Aimee and her husband, Heinrich, you can see how it was for an American in Germany. That’s a rare thing, for an American audience.
The only negative of the book is that the details of daily life in some places can get a little heavy but it’s important to bear in mind that it is the story of one family and it is therefore important that the details be there for the descendants of that family. For the wider audience, the history of the family and how the times affected them are what are most important.
A World Elsewhere is available for purchase now.
(I received a copy of A World Elsewhere through NetGalley in exchange for an honest, original review. This review will be cross-posted on NetGalley, Goodreads, and my blog.)