The Other Side of the Wire by Harold Coyle

four stars

wireThe Other Side of the Wire by Harold Coyle intimately examines what it meant to be Jewish during the late 1930’s and early 1940’s through his very realistic, yet entirely fictional portrait of a family caught up in the turmoil of World War II. By following the veritable rollercoaster ride that is nine-year-old Hannah Koch’s life, the novel introduces conflicting questions about the nature of morality—and what truly constitutes a monstrous human. The novel posits that the delineation between right and wrong is not so clearly etched in stone, for Hannah’s adoptive father happens to be Ernst Richter, a stalwart man and, unfortunately, an SS officer. Though Hannah is Jewish, her bright blonde hair and striking blue eyes allow her to “pass” reasonably within German culture as a child of Aryan descent. All seems to be going well in the Richter household, until Ernst finds himself suddenly in charge of a concentration camp in Poland. The transition understandably takes a toll on Hannah, but it also has a lasting impact on Ernst’s wife, Lena. She can barely stand to examine her own reflection in the mirror without delving into depressive introspection. Needless to say, as The Other Side of the Wire wears on, Hannah’s relationship with her adoptive parents becomes more and more strained, until the breaking point at which Ernst Richter attempts to destroy all evidence of his involvement in the concentration camp. Hannah’s forthright bravery pulls her through to the other side, where she is able to redeem her soul by saving that of another.

An engaging, turbulent work of historical fiction, The Other Side of the Wire by Harold Coyle will leave you reeling. It’s beautifully written, concise in its structure and elegant in its word choice. Though it tells the story from a third-person perspective, the language of the novel draws the reader in and truly immerses them in the worldview of its characters. If you’re at all interested in World War II or vivid portrayals of the depth of the human spirit, this novel is sure to meet both needs and more.

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