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Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite
Poignant and hypnotic, Following Shadows: A World War II Novel about Japanese Concentration Camps, the Impact on Families and Triumph of the Human Spirit by Janneke Jobsis Brown is a historical novel that explores the damaging effects of an experience of a Japanese concentration camp in the Dutch East Indies on a family. We encounter Jakob Vanderveer who suffered the brutality and loss of his father in a concentration camp. When liberation came, he vowed to keep the pain within him. It would be best if no one knew what he experienced, so he thinks.
Now a father, Jakob doesn’t understand that his parenting style is hurting his family and in far deeper ways than he can imagine. The children - Luce, Alby and Corrie - unwittingly do the same thing their father did; hide their pain and frustration. Luce is an alcoholic, Alby a druggie, and Corrie a workaholic. But it won’t be long before tragedy hits. It’s when Alby overdoses himself and almost dies that Jakob understands the level of pain he has inflicted on his family. It’s time to take the lid off the boiling pot and let the secrets out. Follow him and his family on a journey towards healing and wholeness. Will it be too late to undo the harm that has been done?
Following Shadows might be a disturbing story, but it is an engrossing, deeply moving story of pain and healing, a tale with relevant historical underpinnings. Janneke Jobsis Brown’s characters are finely sculpted, real, and believable. Readers encounter humans who are struggling to make sense of their suffering. This narrative features themes of family, the dangers of war, man’s inhumanity to man, and communicates the powerful message that when we share our pain it lessens, and that when we accept our pain we rob it of most of its sting. It’s an engaging and satisfying read.