Over the holidays I spent a lot of time in my car driving to and from tailgates. I don’t know if you remember back to New Year’s, but the Falcons were hot, Atlanta was hosting the Peach Bowl and I was…busy. My New Year’s weekend was spent driving back and forth from Atlanta to my in-laws up in the Georgia mountains. It was a loooong weekend (a fun one too!) and since I was spending so much time in the car, I opted to listen to an audio book…then when I’d get some time to relax – I picked up another book…and slowly the books merged into one story…
The first book I grabbed was The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure. It’s a fictional story about architect Lucien Bernard set in Paris during World War II. He is somewhat conned into creating “hiding spaces” for Jews and others who were being hunted by the Nazis. Bernard has no feelings – good or bad – for the Jewish people and he didn’t particularly like the Nazis, but he really didn’t want to get involved in anything that could put his family at risk. In the end, his greediness wins out and the story follows him as he saves various people and the inner conflict saving them creates within his heart. It’s fascinating to see the way he rationalizes behaviors as well as the surprising twists that ensue as he tries to set boundaries and continues to be pulled outside of them over and over again.
The second book I opted for was an audio book, recorded on CD, but available via my Overlook app. This true story entitled The Hiding Place is written by Corrie Ten Boom and Elizabeth and John Sherrill. Ten Boom’s family owned a watch shop in the Netherlands The Christian family was strong in faith and were well thought of within their community. The story follows their tale of outwitting the Nazi party when they eventually invade their country and what happens when their eventually found out.
The book is told through the eyes of Corrie Ten Boom and she is not shy of sharing her own thought wrenching questions. Is it okay to tell lies when you know they will save lives? How do you go from witnessing the atrocities of concentration camps first hand and then back to “normal” life. And in the aftermath – how do you go on after experiencing such atrocities especially when they have taken everything you hold precious? And how in the world do you continue to trust God?
The interesting thing about reading both of these books at the same time is the way they melded together. In The Hiding Place Ten Boom tells of an architect visiting their home to install a better hiding place…one that blends into the surroundings and is undetectable. In The Paris Architect our main character was just such a man. I began to interweave their stories together even though the only thing that tied them together was the setting of World War II and the theme of hiding places. The merging added layers to the words I read continued to come to life. Most fictional stories are based on shreds of truth that are then woven into a story… Reading these together allowed for more depth in envisioning what spurred Belfoure to write the book…was it a story like Ten Boom’s? Now I’ll have to go do some research because, no, I didn’t look it up after finishing the book;)
I was fascinated by World War II as a child. I read a million books on the subject, wrote papers on it and visited museums. These books reminded me why I was so fascinated…the idea that so many people could be swayed to do something so atrocious…the boldness of those unwilling to follow suit…the strength of those who had to endure the atrocity without any choice. I pray to God we never see another day like it, but if for some reason we have to, I pray that God will provide me the same faith, strength and boldness that Corrie Ten Boom had…and I pray I instill that same boldness in my children.