Cover Image: The German Wife

The German Wife

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Member Reviews

I really enjoy this author’s writing, and this book was another hit for me. It’s smart, thoughtful, and engaging. Even though there were several different settings and characters, I thought the characters were well-developed and I felt invested in each of the storylines. Thank you NetGalley for the e-book. I bought a hard copy for myself and will gladly recommend this to others.
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I devoured this book and I have now added this author as a must read for me now! 

It’s 1933 - and we meet Lizzie and Henry in the United States and Sofie and Jurgen in Germany.

Lizzie and Henry are children and work on their family’s almost bankrupt farm. Their farm failed, Lizzie married, and Henry was sent to fight in the war. Lizzie really didn’t want to get married, and Henry ended up with PTSD from the war. 

Jugren and Sofie are well off until Jurgen is forced out of his job at the university because he wouldn’t comply with the German thinking and as a result had to work for the Germans on the rocket program or be without work and/or in jail.

Jurgen didn’t want to be part of it because he knew the rocket program wasn’t really going to be for rockets but for explosives, but Jurgen had no choice.

1950 - we meet the characters again in the United States.

Lizzie and her husband’s home is in Huntsville, Alabama, and Henry lives with them. Both are not fond of the Germans who are here. The entire town has a difficult time accepting the Germans and their families.

Jurgen has been here for five years working on Operation Paperclip without his family. When his family arrives, the town is to welcome his family and the other German families, but it is a difficult get together - especially for Lizzie and Sofia.

Sofie tried to explain what they really went through and that they didn’t agree but had to. Lizzie and others didn’t want to hear it.
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The German Wife is a Kelly Rimmer at her best! I loved this one, she is a sure fire hit author for me. This one has an alternating narrator which I tend to enjoy with alternating timelines...which I also enjoy. This was not confusing to me or "weird" until the end. The stories of two connected women that had life circumstances decided for them was really well done. Both women were full people-with good and bad which was relatable. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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Sofie is a newcomer to America from Germany and is anxious to reunite with her husband who is working on America's space program. As she adjusts to living in America her past life in Germany during WWII  is slowly being revealed to the reader as Sofie encounters prejudice and violence. A fresh look at a little known aspect of history.
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thank you Simon and Schuster Canada and netgalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.

Set in both before and after WW2, this dual timeline and dual perspective story follows American Lizzie and German Sofie as they deal with the hardships before the war and after finding themselves living in the same Alabama town. Their husbands working together on "Operation Paperclip," an undercover part of the NASA space program that pardoned German scientists and former Nazis leaders in exchange for their intelligence.

I think Kelly RImmer writes one hell of a historical fiction novel. I haven't read many in this genre but when it centers around WW2 I am always interested. The direction this one takes really tugs at the heart string and it felt like a fresh perspective with new information.
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Kelly Rimmer writes some of the best historical fiction today. Her stories are heartfelt and gut wrenching. 

The German Wife is no exception. The characters crawled into my skin and have stayed there. The plot had wonderful pacing, and I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommend.
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Hands down, my favorite book of Kelly Rimmer's. She is a historical fiction genius.  Sometimes I feel like "how many WWII books can we read?" But this one was different.  I learned so much history from this book.  I didn't realize that German scientists came to the United States to help us.  I loved how it was written from two points of view as well as two time periods as well.  I recommend it to everyone I talk to.  5 amazing stars!
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At the end of WWII some of the German officials were arrested, some fled to South America or other places and some were flown to the U.S. to work on Operation Paperclip. Sofie’s husband, Jurgen, was one of the lucky ones who didn’t face retribution but instead, was given a job working for the American government on their rocket program.

Sofie and her husband never agreed with the Nazis philosophy but they felt they had little choice but to show allegiance. When the opportunity to start over in America presents itself, they jump at the chance. But not everyone in the U.S. is pleased to have Germans now in their midst. 

Rimmer does a fabulous job of telling the unvarnished story of a family who was part of the worst genocide in history. The phrase being caught “between a rock and a hard place” is exemplified in Jurgen’s position in Germany. It’s guilt that becomes the integral issue of the book. What options did the scientist have? How would any person act if their own family’s survival was at stake? And how does a family move on after acting without scruples? Furthermore, shouldn’t there be retribution for one’s actions?

This complex issue is riveting and thought provoking. Guilt and accountability are not always satisfied. Our government made deliberate decisions that let some escape punishment. It’s problematic and troubling. A fascinating book that is sure to generate intense discussion.
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I love Kelly Rimmer’s books and this one did not disappoint! Seeing both sides of the situation was eye opening. You think you know how you would react to Germans living in the US so quickly after the war but seeing their side gives you pause. Sometimes we are just doing the best we can in our circumstances. I will absolutely be recommending this to others. Thank you for the advanced reader copy!
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-Thank you for the opportunity to review this book. 
-My first time reading a Kelly Runner’s was The Things We Cannot Say, which I was privileged to get that book on NetGalley. 
-I found myself struggling a lot when reading this book and was not engaged.
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This was a truly heartbreaking story. I had never heard of Operation Paperclip before, and I was very intrigued to learn about it, both through this story and in my own research.

I was morally conflicted throughout the book, never quite sure where I fell on right/wrong and justice. I felt for all the characters, and kept asking myself what I would have done in each of their positions. My answers change each time I think about it. The best novels make you think, and this did just that while telling the story!

I received an advanced copy. All thoughts are my own.
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The year is 1950 and Sophie has just arrived to Hunstville, Alabama, to be reunited with her husband Jurgen, who was brought over by the Americans to work on space technology. It is here that she meets Lizzie, wife of Jurgen's boss, Calvin. Lizzie and others are not comfortable having Germans living freely in their town on the heels of WWII, especially ones with rumored ties to the Nazis.

Kelly Rimmer can do no wrong. I loved this one even though it broke my heart about 193 times. I felt all of the things - anger, frustration, sadness and even some happiness (though very little). I loved the dual POVs and the timeline - it took us back to Sophie and Lizzie's life prior to the war and led us right up to present day, filling in the puzzle pieces to create their full stories. I also liked learning about Operation Paperclip, something I've never heard of before. I enjoy learning about different perspectives and experiences through the war, and this was one I've never encountered previously. I honestly can't say enough good things - any lover of historical fiction should pick this book up.

I also loved the Author's Note at the end and encourage everyone to read it once you finish. It's so easy to judge others and say you would do things differently but it's impossible to know until you're in their shoes. I battled with the ending myself and how to feel about Sophie and Jergen; I think Kelly put it perfectly.

An easy 5 stars. I loved it.
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This book starts as a slow burn but OMG did I love this! I woke up at 5am to finish reading it before work. 
This book tackles really complex issues about morality and what is right - it def made me look at history differently, and the characters are so well developed, I feel like they were real people. 
And the ending.... gosh that ending!
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Author Kelly Rimmer says that inspiration for her books often strikes when she least expects it. In the case of The German Wife, the idea for the story came to her in 2019 when she visited an exhibit about the history of the U.S. space program at the Parkes Observatory, the site of the radio telescope that assisted in the broadcasts from the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. She noted a reference to the contributions of German scientists, beginning in 1950, to development of the rockets that powered the spacecraft. She was “immediately struck by how unlikely” it was that German and U.S. scientists worked side by side so soon after the end of World War II. Her research soon revealed Operation Paperclip. Under the terms of the program, more than 1,600 German scientists and engineers from a variety of disciplines (chemistry, physics, architecture, medicine, rocketry, etc.) were brought to America and employed by the federal government. The truth about their pasts was obliterated, their stories rewritten. “Many were complicit in war crimes. Others were complicit through their silence.” Nonetheless, they were granted a fresh start courtesy of the U.S. government.

Thus, The German Wife opens in 1950 with the first-person narrative of Sofie von Meyer Rhodes, a German aristocrat who has just arrived in Huntsville, Alabama, with her two youngest children, Gisela and Felix. They will join her husband, Jürgen, a scientist and former professor who has been living and working in America for five years. Their older son, Georg, would be twenty years old had he lived, and Laura, their older daughter, was lost to them when she remained loyal to the Nazi regime. At last, Sofie will attempt to forge a new life with her family alongside other Germans granted a second chance by the U.S. government. Sofie is aware that Jürgen came to America as a prisoner of war but does not know the details surrounding his freedom and job at Fort Bliss. And soon Sofie will learn that many of her new American neighbors are neither forgiving nor welcoming. Adapting to life in a new country with unfamiliar customs among resentful residents will prove difficult.

But, of course, Sofie is a survivor. In a dual narrative beginning in 1930, Sofie relates her experiences in Germany as the Nazis come to power and increasingly impose their will upon stunned citizens. Having only married Jürgen a year earlier, Sofie is expecting their first child. But the results of the recent election have proven shocking and frightening, especially for Sofie’s Jewish best friend, Mayim, and her family, who have lost everything as a result of inflation and the 1929 stock market crash. Neither woman realizes how much more will be lost when war breaks out. Mayim and her family will be forced into hiding. And in order to protect them, as well as her own family, it will be necessary for Sofie to at least appear to shun her. Moreover, Jürgen will be conscripted into joining the Nazi party, and utilizing his knowledge and skills in a morally repugnant mission . . . or face the consequences.

Also commencing in 1930 is another first-person narrative. Lizzie and her brother, Henry, live in Dallam County, Texas, but times are hard. The rain has not come, but brutal dust storms have. Eventually, Lizzie and Henry also make their way to Huntsville. Lizzie describes her journey, including how she meets and marries her husband, Calvin Miller, who has transferred from El Paso and serves as the general manager of the rocket program. He refers to his coworkers as “our Germans,” a term that makes Lizzie want “to scream.” Henry served in Europe during World War II, but never speaks about it. Lizzie notes that he returned from the war -- at a time well before Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was a recognized and treated condition -- “a broken man. And now my brother did not need to be living in a town lousy with Germans.” Henry sees the influx of German citizens as a threat and, although he seems to be doing well, Lizzie worries about him. For good reason, it turns out.

The male German and American scientists have been working together for some time and have developed collegial relationships. Oblivious to history, the children immediately begin playing together. But as the German and American wives are introduced to each other for the first time, tensions are high. Many of the American women are only in attendance at the gathering because their husbands have demanded their presence, and they are stubbornly standoffish instead of welcoming, further bewildering the German wives who do not yet speak English. Lizzie is one of the most outspoken, her outrage on full display. “These people should probably be on trial at Nuremberg, not sipping champagne in Huntsville. . . . We don’t have to welcome them. We can take a stand. I mean, for God’s sakes, someone has to.” Lizzie expresses what so many Americans felt after the war: German citizens who stood by as atrocities were committed and “did nothing” were as guilty as the members of the Nazi party who ordered and carried out unthinkable deeds. But Sofie protests, arguing it is unfair to assume that all Germans knew what was happening or were members of the Nazi party. What she does not verbalize is that she and Jürgen did, in fact, know what was happening . . . but were helpless to stop it.

The German Wife is a riveting, often heartbreaking and infuriating modern morality play. Through her compelling and fully developed characters, Rimmer explores the complexities of war, particularly the most heinous conflict in history. She uses the four narratives to illustrate her characters’ experiences and reactions to events, many of which are beyond their control. In Germany, Sofie and Jürgen are horrified by the abuse of power and crimes being committed, and seek ways to evade being swept up into the Nazi party. But Jürgen possesses unique skills, and the party leaders are intent upon using his talents in ways that are repulsive and abhorrent to him and Sofie. They are determined to keep their family safe, and soon learn the cost of resistance. As violence escalates, Jews are rounded up and sent to concentration camps, and the government takes control of the press, spewing propaganda, it becomes evident that "the Nazi party had gone too far. But no one said it. No one could say it. We had so long been afraid of the consequences of dissent that even as the nation descended into madness, any moral call to rise up against the chaos went unheeded." Out of options, Jürgen tries to shield Sofie from the truth, but it haunts him. He knows the ways in which Hitler plans to use the rockets being developed. He also knows about the camps, the gas, and the certain fate of those who attempt to resist. "Those men buid rockets according to my instructions," he confesses to Sofie. "When the story of the war is written, the pages will be full of men saying 'I was only following orders' and the world will know that is fiction. Every single time I opted not to take a stand, I was taking a stand -- for the wrong side." Their story is absorbing, terrifying, and deeply moving.

Lizzie’s early life is beset by hardships and tragedy, and Rimmer describes how she ultimately resolves to forge a life that is solid and dependable, if not founded upon love and passion. She cares for and protects Henry who, as Rimmer demonstrates, is indisputably a victim of war. Her bitterness is credible and understandable, as is Calvin’s patient longing to soften her heart. As the narratives advance and readers attain knowledge about the characters’ histories and emotions, Rimmer accelerates the story’s pace and heightens the dramatic tension that results in a shocking and violent event. In the aftermath, her characters must come to terms with their pasts in order to face the future. Will they be able to finally see each other as human beings, rather than "Germans" and "Americans" on opposite sides of a war that has already ended? 

Through the lives of her characters, Rimmer deftly examines PTSD and survivor’s guilt, the life-altering and lasting impacts of war, prejudice and bigotry, whether healing is possible, and, if so, how it can come about. The German Wife is a unique work of historical fiction in that Rimmer presents the troubling story of a German family who strive to escape being caught up in the evil and corrupt agenda of a madman and his followers. Rimmer challenges readers to ponder, along with Sofie and Jürgen, whether, in light of all they endure, they did enough. “Is there a point where we are morally obliged to take a stand, whatever the cost?” Rimmer asks.

Rimmer poses similar questions about Operation Paperclip. Her characters reference the Space Race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. As the two nations fought for superiority in spaceflight and to be the first to send an astronaut to the moon, that competition provided the impetus for the U.S. to overlook war crimes committed – often involuntarily – by German scientists in order to utilize their talents. America won the Space Race. But did the ends justify the means? Rimmer makes clear that Operation Paperclip was fraught from its conception and nothing about it “was simple – not the politics, the mechanics, or even the ethics.”

For fans of World War-era historical fiction, The German Wife is a must-read volume. Rimmer’s expertly crafted and thoroughly researched story is touching, complex, thought-provoking, and thoroughly engrossing, as well as remarkably contemporary and timely, given the current state of American politics.
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This book is great! Would definitely recommend. Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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About the book: “The New York Times bestselling author of The Warsaw Orphan returns with a gripping novel inspired by the true story of Operation Paperclip: a controversial secret US intelligence program that employed former Nazis after WWII.”

Kelly Rimmer cemented herself as a favorite author of mine with her powerful and deeply emotional novel, Before I Let You Go, released in 2018. Since that time, I have eagerly anticipated each new book, and time and again, she delivers another deeply powerful emotional novel. The German Wife recently published this summer, and it is the story of Operation Paperclip, of which I was vaguely familiar.

After World War II, the United States brings over German scientists, pardoning them for their war crimes in exchange for their help with the space program. Their families eventually join them, as is the case for Jurgen and his wife Sofie and their children. The book also travels back to Germany during the war, and addresses Jurgen’s role, as well as Sofie’s many feelings, as she discovers what he is doing.

The story also involves Lizzie, an American, and her scientist husband. I especially enjoyed her parts of the story, and what I learned about the Dust Bowl. I also appreciated the complexities explored in the dynamics of the local community where both veterans of the war and these scientists were living side-by-side.

Kelly Rimmer has this way of immediately enveloping you in a story, making you feel like you are right in Huntsville living alongside Sofie. I thoroughly enjoy the intimacy and emotional intelligence of her stories, and I am already eager for what’s next. Highly recommended for all hist fic fans.

I received a gifted copy.
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“Hell is simply the place where hope is lost.” ~ Kelly Rimmer, The German Wife




This gripping novel was inspired by the true story of Operation Paperclip: a controversial secret US intelligence program that employed former Nazis after WWII.

Berlin, 1930—Although Sofie von Meyer Rhodes and her husband Jürgen do not share the social views growing popular in Hitler’s Germany, his position with its burgeoning rocket program changes their diminishing fortunes for the better.

Twenty years later, as part of Operation Paperclip, Jürgen is one of the many German scientists offered pardons for their part in the war and taken to America to work for its fledgling space program. Sofie looks forward to making a fresh start in Alabama. But her neighbors aren’t as welcoming as she'd hoped. She and her family face social isolation, hostility, and violence, climaxing in a shocking event.

This dual timeline/narrative really works in this novel. It’s rare to find a book in which I am invested in all the characters, a mark of great writing. Rimmer had my emotions tied in knots as I contemplated the turmoil Sofie felt as she watched her beloved Berlin transform into something unrecognizable and was forced to consider what she and her husband must sacrifice morally for their young family’s security. Opposing the Nazi regime had severe consequences. I found it especially disturbing that the Nazis brainwashed impressionable children against the Jews. When the family moved to Alabama, Sofie was thrust into a foreign environment in which she is a complete outsider, loathed by most of those around her.

Rimmer’s research was impressive. Operation Paperclip was an immense undertaking that brought 1,600 German scientists and engineers—specialists in rocketry, chemistry, physics, architecture, and medicine—to the United States to design and built rockets. Jürgen’s career loosely follows that of the historical figure Wernher von Braun. Another storyline was inspired by the life of Gerda Weissmann Klein, a concentration camp survivor liberated after a death march wearing the ski boots her father insisted would help her survive.

The German Wife is my favorite Kelly Rimmer book. 4.5 stars rounded up to five.
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KELLY RIMMER, YOU HAVE DONE IT AGAIN! This story was captivating, heart-wrenching, and so addictive. Rimmer’s research that she puts into her historical fiction novels allows the time period and characters to be so vividly portrayed. The alternating points of view captured my attention from the beginning and never let go. This one will be on my mind for a while!
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I was so excited to receive an ARC of this book! The Things We Cannot Say was my favorite book from 2019! 

I really enjoyed this story (it was incredibly thought-provoking) and loved the characters. I highly recommend Kelly Rimmer and look forward to her next book! 

Thank you, Graydon House and NetGalley, for an ARC!
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Easily one of the best historical fiction novels I’ve ever read. This really opened my eyes to events/people/places I had never even heard of. Super well researched. I also love how it starts with alternating past & present POVs between Lizzie & Sofie but as the story progresses it becomes more & more present. 

The author’s notes at the end is also worth reading - I love that even the author herself questions whether the characters deserve a HEA.
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