The book opens with a young man waking up in a field somewhere in Eastern Europe. Owen has no memory of how he got there. Alone and with no papers to identify him he struggles to his feet looking around as he tries to fathom his location. With a pulsing head he checks himself for injuries but can see none. He knows only his name.
The war is coming to an end as Owen begins walking. Filled with despair he meets Janek, a teenager who seems more competent then him. Although they are unable to speak to each, Janek is Czech; they manage to communicate, united in their search for freedom and family.
They forage for food as they head for Leipzig where they have heard an American camp has been set up. Snippets of memories return to Owen, a brother Max looms in his memory. He tries to piece together his background, sure that his knowledge of aircrafts mean he was a pilot.
As they walk together Polish Irena joins them when Owen discovers her trying to leave behind her newborn baby. Together the unlikely foursome journey on avoiding Germans and Russians along the way. Emotions are raw as they continue the harrowing walk across Germany. Despite their different backgrounds, all bear the tragedy of war and are untied in this. Hewitt gives us insight into the bonds that can be formed in terrible circumstances.
On arrival at Leipzig they are greeted by confusion. Exasperated Americans are trying to house and feed refugees. Those who are well enough are allocated onto trucks out of the camp. Owen has the advantage over his two fellow travellers – he is English and can speak and communicate well with the Americans. While Owen finds a way out, he is torn by his connection to Irena and Janek. Despite new revelations Owen feels ties to them. He is keen not to leave them behind.
Hewitt’s compelling novel is aided by the fact that he took the same journey his three protagonists embark on. He paints a vivid picture of war-torn Europe drawing on the raw emotions of characters who have lost everything.
A gripping novel that will stay with you long after you have read the last page. Buy the book here.
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