What I Would Tell You
by Liz Tolsma
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Pub Date 01 Jan 2023 | Archive Date 31 Jan 2023
Barbour Publishing, Barbour Fiction
1941—The pounding of Nazi boots on the streets of Salonika, Greece, reverberates in Mathilda Nissim’s ears, shaking her large community of Sephardic Jews to its core and altering her life forever. If only her people would rise up and resist their captors. At great risk to herself and those around her, she uses the small newspaper she publishes to call them to action, all to no avail. Her husband encourages her to trust God to watch over them, but God has once again deserted His people. Amid the chaos, Mathilda discovers she’s expecting a longed-for child. Still, nothing stops the occupiers’ noose from tightening around their necks, and she may have to resort to desperate measures to ensure her daughter’s survival.
2019—College student Tessa Payton and her cousin take a popular DNA heritage test only to discover they don’t share any common ancestors. In fact, the test reveals Tessa is a Greek Sephardic Jew. This revelation threatens her tenuous faith. Always the overlooked child in her family, she empties her savings account and jets off on a journey to Greece to discover where she belongs and which God demands her allegiance. The enchanting curator at the Jewish museum guides her as she navigates life in Thessaloniki, helps with her genealogical research, and loans her a fascinating journal written by a Jewish woman during WWII. Tessa’s search, however, may open old wounds and uncover long-hidden secrets that could fracture her family forever and leave her with more questions than when she started.
Based in part on true accounts of Jews in Salonika, Greece, What I Would Tell You traces two women’s journeys, delving into what faith looks like and where it leads us as they navigate difficult circumstances and impossible choices that have ripple effects across the years.
- Split time fiction: WWII and 2019
- Stand-alone novel
- Approximate book length: 91,000 words
- Includes author’s notes
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 91 members
I haven't read a book by Liz Tolsma that hasn't affected me greatly. She reaches down into the souls of her readers through her characters who are very real and very relatable. These characters aren't the fluffy kind of people who sail through life without a care in the world. These characters struggle with big, important, real-world problems and do so with a call to right the injustices of the world. Thus is the story of Mathilda and Asher Nissim--Sephardic Jews who live in Greece after the Sephardic Jews had been expelled from Spain.
In a parallel story, Tessa Payton has taken a DNA test and found out that she and her cousin, Riley, are not blood related at all. She goes home for the summer with a desire to know the ancestors who carried her DNA. Because Tessa's internship for the summer is a remote assignment, she decides to go to Greece and find out "who she is" in this world.
While doing some research in a museum, Tessa meets Giannis who takes on her research because of his own interest in the era. Tessa knows her mother knows more than she is telling but can't get around the barriers she has put up. Giannis has found Mathilda's diary and copies it for Tessa to read. In learning about Mathilda's life, Tessa learns more of who she is. She learns the strength that has run through her family for many years. When she finally gets her mother to tell her about her family history, she gains a richer understanding of who she is.
As the narrative goes back and forth between Mathilda's and Tessa's lives, one thing comes across in such a clear way it is hard to ignore: it doesn't matter what era of time, those who follow God will be opposed by the world.
What I Would Tell You is a five star book, with two thumbs up, and an ancestral diary to give you a perspective into your own history.
Barbour Publishing provided the copy I read for this review. All opinions expressed are solely my own.
This one was a little difficult for me to get into, but once I did it was an amazing journey. Greece isn't a topic often discussed when looking at WW2 history (at least, not in most fiction), but this is an element of the Jewish story that deserves to be told. It's written in parallel-timeline format, with each of the protagonists trying to find the truth, follow God's word, and find themselves. A bit of a twist at the end leaves you both satisfied yet craving more...
Thank you to NetGalley and Barbour Publishing for the chance to read and review this book. All opinions expressed are my own.
This is the first book I have read by author Liz Tolsma, and it was just incredible! It is a heartbreaking, but hopeful story, that brought me to tears It is a dual timeline story. The first story is about Mathilda and Asher Nissim who lived in Salonika, Greece when the Germans invaded. This was a terrible time for them because they were Sephardic Jews. They are forced to make some heartbreaking, gut wrenching decisions. The second story takes place three generations later and involves a young woman named Tessa Payton. When she takes a DNA test, she finds she is not related to her cousin at all. This leads her to explore her heritage and find out where she came from. This is a story that I will not soon forget. I loved the way that all the characters came to trust in the Lord, even though their lives were so difficult. I cannot say enough about this book-it is truly a treasure, and the author did such a fantastic job sharing both stories. Very highly recommended!
Liz Tolsma’s latest release, "What I Would Tell You," is a dual-timeline novel, which seems to be fairly popular these days—set in the present, but also around the time of the Holocaust.
In the present, Tessa Payton, a college student, is shocked to learn the results of her genetic test are vastly different from her cousin’s results. From this test, Tessa discovers she is part Sephardic Jew. After learning this, Tessa decides to drop out of college and go to Greece to discover her heritage, much to the disappointment of her stepfather and mother. When Tessa confronts her mother about her lineage, the woman seems to be holding something back.
While Tessa is in Greece, a young man named Giannis gives her a copy of a diary of a woman named Mathilda. In the earlier timeline, readers get to meet Mathilda Nissim, a young woman married without children. In her village, she produces a newspaper that speaks out against the Germans who are now occupying her area. As she continues to produce the newspaper, she risks putting herself, her husband, and her community in danger. The two stories develop until they inevitably overlap.
What I liked about this story was how Tolsma drew upon her personal experience from her visit to Greece. Readers will notice this because of the level of detail the author has included. Also, I like how Tolsma wove various unresolved threads throughout the story, which added to the mystery, and kept me turning the pages. While I wouldn’t say romance is the main thread of the story, it is present in the love stories between Mathilda and her husband, but also between Tessa and Giannis. Finally, I appreciated the strong faith-based elements within the story. They felt organic and not forced.
This story should appeal to those who enjoy historical fiction, romance, or mysteries/suspense.
*Please note that I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The opinion expressed here is my own.
I plan on posting this review on my blog (https://sleuthsandsuspects.blogspot.com/) closer to the release date and will then share my review on FB and Twitter.