In 1939 Waitstill Sharp and his wife Martha are given a mission from the American Unitarian Association. They were to leave their home and children to go to Prague Czechoslovakia to help with the refugee crisis. With only $40,000 to help their mission, Waitstill and Martha had to quickly learn the art of spying, complete dangerous missions, learn the politics in several countries, and new languages. They must help as many people in danger from the Nazis as possible without becoming targets themselves. In 1940 the Sharps are sent to Vichy France to continue their aid and rescue mission.
From the moment I read the introduction to this book I was intrigued. I found it fascinating that the author did not know the incredible role his grandparents had played in rescuing people during World War II until his Mother suggested he speak to his grandparents about their activities during the War for a school assignment. After reading this book, I cannot help but wonder what stories I do not know about my family. Although we will not all find something as momentous as the author, his discovery is a great reminder to ask family questions. You never know what you will find. I felt like I was discovering Joukowsky's grandparents with him. It added an extra level of interest to my reading.
I was very interested in the Sharps' story. Reading how they adapted to their circumstances quickly and with an intense passion so they could save as many lives as possible was inspiring. I thought this added an interesting view of history. I felt their frustration as they tried to save people and were thwarted by bureaucracy. It was also a deeply personal story as we learn how their rescue mission brings them close together for a time, but ultimately separates them.
I admit, I found the first half of the book more intriguing. I found the last part a little dull as we went through their activities after the war. I think some of it was necessary so the readers could learn how profoundly their rescue missions shaped their lives, but perhaps a little less detail for some parts would have kept the book flowing a little more.
This book is the official companion to the Ken Burns' film, and I am looking forward to seeing how the Sharps' story is portrayed on film. I am glad I read the book first so I am familiar with the details before I watch it.
This was a good book about people who tried to make a difference during World War II. I think Ken Burns summed it up best in the introduction when he said "Martha once said that neither she nor Waitstill saw themselves as anything but ordinary, that anyone else would have acted in the same way. It's hard for me to believe that's true, but their remarkable story shows us why we should at least try." I thought this was a good book, and would recommend reading it.
*I received a free copy of this book from LibraryThing.
*Receiving a free copy of this book does not change my review. It simply provides me with a copy of a book I would not have read as soon or heard about otherwise.