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Reviewed by Velma Lang for Readers' Favorite
Germany is desperate and apprehensive in 1945. Russian soldiers patrol and women scavenge in the rubble. So begins The Letter by Barry Cole. We wonder why Hannah and her children are given shelter by an older couple, Otto and his wife. The scene then focuses on Sgt. Franz Mayer in Stalingrad, Russia as he and his soldiers battle house by house and street by street, retreating from the Russian juggernaut and the severe winter. Franz is eventually alone as all are killed. Although he fights bravely against the odds with other units, his troops are wiped out. In the last desperate days of retreat, he avoids execution for desertion. Otto, a train driver, helps him return home where Hannah hides him in the basement. Ultimately, he must make a decision to remain hidden or return to a battle that may be futile. What will he decide?
The authenticity of The Letter by Barry Cole strikes at the very heart of war. It is very real and we are there. In The Letter, we are drawn into Franz’s fate as he leads his men with skill and nurtures them with compassion. Their camaraderie and bonding are supported by realistic dialogue. His comrades are personal losses to him and so we care about him and them as their sacrifices exemplify the human cost of war. Although descriptions are horrific, we very much want Franz to escape the horror and return to his family. The Letter is a masterful portrayal by Barry Cole of the cruelty and inhumanity of war. Well done. Read it.