Date Published: March 15, 2017
***An IWIC Hall of Fame Novel***
***Winner 2017 National Indie Excellence Award***
"This book needs to join the ranks of the classic survivor stories of WWII such as "Diary of Anne Frank" and "Man's Search for Meaning". It is truly that amazing!" InD'taleMagazine
"This family saga is wonderfully written and, aside from the emotional ramifications, very easy to read. I stayed up too late a couple of nights reading it...I highly recommend this book!" Long and Short Reviews
Spanning thirteen years from 1940 to 1953 and set against the epic panorama of WWII, author Annette Oppenlander's SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND is a sweeping saga of family, love, and betrayal that illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the children's war.
SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND tells the true and heart-wrenching stories of Lilly and Günter struggling with the terror-filled reality of life in the Third Reich, each embarking on their own dangerous path toward survival, freedom, and ultimately each other. Based on the author's own family and anchored in historical facts, this story celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the strength of war children.
When her father goes off to war, seven-year-old Lilly is left with an unkind mother who favors her brother and chooses to ignore the lecherous pedophile next door. A few blocks away, twelve-year-old Günter also looses his father to the draft and quickly takes charge of supplementing his family's ever-dwindling rations by any means necessary.
As the war escalates and bombs begin to rain, Lilly and Günter's lives spiral out of control. Every day is a fight for survival. On a quest for firewood, Lilly encounters a dying soldier and steals her father's last suit to help the man escape. Barely sixteen, Günter ignores his draft call and embarks as a fugitive on a harrowing 47-day ordeal--always just one step away from execution.
When at last the war ends, Günter grapples with his brother's severe PTSD and the fact that none of his classmates survived. Welcoming denazification, Lilly takes a desperate step to rid herself once and for all of her disgusting neighbor's grip. When Lilly and Günter meet in 1949, their love affair is like any other. Or so it seems. But old wounds and secrets have a way of rising to the surface once more.
What is the hardest part of writing your books?
As a historical novelist I find it challenging to determine the exact moment when I’ve researched enough and should start writing. Because I’m a history nerd, I sometimes spend too much time on a given subject. The other challenge is coming up with a first draft. Since I’m a pantser and don’t outline, this first draft is mentally draining. After a few hours of writing I am always quite tired.
What songs are most played on your Ipod?
I’m a 60’s and 70’s rock girl though I also love U2. I often listen to The Stones, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.
Do you have critique partners or beta readers?
I’ve been in critique groups since 2009. They’re invaluable and have taught me so much about the craft of writing. I’m convinced that without the invaluable input of my fellow writers, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I also believe that editing other writer’s work teaches many useful lessons about what works and what doesn’t. In fact, helping other writers may be more useful in the long run than receiving feedback on your own submissions.
What book are you reading now?
I’m currently readying “The Forgotten Soldier” by Guy Sajer, a biographical account of a young man fighting for the German side in WWII. I think the appeal and success of the book is due to the incredible detail, the author shares. Reading it, you feel you’re right there with the protagonist.
How did you start your writing career?
I started writing children’s stories in the 90s. We lived in the woods and I came up with a hedgehog going on adventures in the forest. Of course, I didn’t know anything about writing or publishing and so these first projects went nowhere. In 2002, I interviewed my parents about their experience in WWII as German war children and from it sprouted the first short stories. I began writing a lot, attended conferences, classes and critique groups. I read and read. Still, it took until 2015 to have quality publishable work.
I recently finished ‘Broken Journey,’ a story set during the American Civil War. It is about a boy’s choice to protect his best friend, a slave, from a brutal attack which forces both on separate journeys: one escapes into war, the other is sold into slavery. Told from alternating viewpoints, one black and one white, the story examines the power of hope and friendship, and the endurance of the human spirit to find a way home.
About the Author
Annette Oppenlander is an award-winning writer, literary coach and educator. As a bestselling historical novelist, Oppenlander is known for her authentic characters and stories based on true events, coming alive in well-researched settings. Having lived in Germany the first half of her life and the second half in various parts in the U.S., Oppenlander inspires readers by illuminating story questions as relevant today as they were in the past. Oppenlander’s bestselling true WWII story, Surviving the Fatherland, was elected to IWIC’s Hall of Fame and won the 2017 National Indie Excellence Award. Her historical time-travel trilogy, Escape from the Past, takes readers to the German Middle Ages and the Wild West. Uniquely, Oppenlander weaves actual historical figures and events into her plots, giving readers a flavor of true history while enjoying a good story. Oppenlander shares her knowledge through writing workshops at colleges, libraries and schools. She also offers vivid presentations and author visits. The mother of fraternal twins and a son, she lives with her husband and old mutt, Mocha, in Bloomington, Ind.