Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother’s life.
Book Club Ideas
|A young pregnant Anna leaves her father’s home and moves into a bakery. Anna and her mentor became known as “Bakery Angels” for hiding bread for the prisoners in concentration camps. Book club decorations can include angels, like these from Willow Tree, alongside a variety of breads and pastries.|
|Lilac’s conceal Trudy’s play area as a young girl and she observes them in full bloom en route to the interview that will tell her the truth about her mother. The scent of lilacs is the one untarnished memory of Germany for one survivor. There is a life-like silk flower arrangement available from Amazon.com.|
|When the Americans arrive in Germany little Trudie (spelled Trudie when she is younger, Trudy when she is older) is introduced to Tootsie Pops. Tootsie Rolls became a standard part of American soldiers’ field rations, due to the hardiness of the candy under a variety of environmental conditions, and the soldiers would hand them out to the children.|
Mr. Goldman, a Jewish man Trudy offended with her interviews of Germans (he felt they should not be given a voice), repeatedly plays Beethoven’s second movement of the Seventh Symphony “which to Trudy has always been, with its clever, tortured minor-key strings, the very essence of grief.” Below is a sampling of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.
Book Club Menu
In a peace offering for offending Mr. Goldman, Trudy brings him Latkes and served them with a side of sour cream.
One of the meals Anna made consisted of bratwurst, which was fanned on a platter with other sliced meats, Sweet Red Cabbage Salad, Chilled Cucumber Soup, a dish of pickles and bread, a long loaf of dark pumpernickel. And for dessert, iced coffee, tea and Sachertorte.
One of the dishes mentioned from Anna’s native country is Saurbraten, which essentially means pickled roast meat. The gravy for this dish is made with gingersnap cookies. The combination of the sour taste of the meat with the sweetened gravy is heavenly!
One of the breads mentioned in Those Who Save Us is Brotchen. Below is an entertaining video for making Brotchen. The written recipe can be found here.
One of the desserts they enjoy, alongside a decanter of Grand Marnier, is a Kirschentorte or Kirschtorte, a German Black Forest Cake.
Book Club Resources
Ratings at the time this post was published
|Goodreads: 4.08 stars (15,932 ratings)|
|Amazon: 4.3 stars (284 ratings)|
|LibraryThing: 4.1 stars (71 ratings)|
|My Rating: 4.5 stars. This engaging novel about the choices people make to survive portrays a perspective on the Holocaust that I had not read before. I highly recommend it! (Note: This book did have some strong sexual content that was sometimes hard to read).|
- Do you think Anna received any solace knowing that her actions saved lives? Or did her shame override any other emotion she could feel?
- With everything Anna did to ensure her daughter’s safety during the war, why do you think she continued to leave the bread?
- Did you find the interviews with the German’s enlightening? Eye-opening?
- Why do you think Trudy and Reagan felt like they didn’t have a right to be happy?
- How might the relationship of Anna and Trudy been different if Trudy had known the truth about her mother’s past? How might each of their lives been different?
- Do you agree with Anna’s statement that “we come to love those who save us”? Could you understand how she could feel this way towards someone so abusive?
- After the conclusion of the novel, what do you think the future holds for Anna? For Trudy?
Purchase Those Who Save Us at your favorite bookseller
|Jenna attended Kenyon College, from which she graduated with a B.A. in English, and Boston University, where she earned an M.A. in Creative Writing, taught Creative and Communications Writing for 5 years and was the editor of AGNI Literary Magazine. For the past 15 years, Jenna has taught master novel workshops in Boston for Grub Street Writers and continues to write for Grub Daily, contributing to Grub’s Friday Five-0 advice blog and her own column Writer On The Road. Jenna currently lives with photographer Jim Reed and black Lab Woodrowin Wichita, Kansas, where she is researching Book 3. Jenna’s debut novel Those Who Save Us is a worldwide phemenon, a runaway New York Times bestseller for two years and the # 1 Book of 2011 in Holland, where it has been on the bestseller list over a year. Those Who Save Us is also a Boston Globe bestseller and the 2005 Ribalow Prize winner, adjudged by Elie Wiesel. From JennaBlum.com|
Books that Jenna Blum used in writing Those Who Save Us include the following:
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