Book Review: A Light Beyond the Trenches
Author: Alan Hlad
Genre: Historical Fiction - Great War
Book Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
"Harbor your heart, Anna thought. It was the affirmation that Norbie seldom spoke, but in times when Anna needed it most. It was his way to symbolize how one can protect their heart in the worst of emotional storms."
International Best-Seller Alan Hlad shares his third novel “A Light Beyond the Trenches”, a historical fiction novel set during The Great War (World War One). Published by Kensington Publishing Corp., Hlad brilliantly writes this Great War based historical fiction with emotional pulls of love and loss along with hope and trials. Hlad ropes in his readers at the very beginning, starting with the traumatic story of Max Benesch.
Max Benesch is a Jewish-German solider with the Imperial German Army assigned to some of the most dangerous assignments at the front lines of war. In a moment, Max’s unit becomes victims to the lethal chlorine gas weapons leaving Max barely escaping with his life. He wakes up in the hospital having lost his sight, burnt lungs, and damaged hearing. His unit along with his comrades are all dead.
Red-Cross Nurse, Anna Zeller has a fortunate encounter with Dr. Stalling, a medical doctor who believes there’s an opportunity to open the world’s first guide dog training school for blind veterans. When Anna witnesses firsthand the capabilities of German Shepherds, she passionately wants to be part of history. Her supportive father, Norbie, tells Anna to “harbor her heart,” words Anna keeps close to build her confidence in difficult situations. Dr. Stalling grants Anna permission to join the guide dog school but her role is more as a caretaker for the dogs rather than a trainer. A German Shepherd named Nia arrives badly injured with means to be euthanized. However, Anna openly volunteers, promising to nurse Nia back to health and thus giving Anna an opportunity to prove she can be a trainer.
When Max and Anna’s lives collide, Hlad takes them on a journey through conquering successes and heart-wrenching difficulties. Will Max find a way to live a new life without his sight? Can Anna and her fiancée Bruno who’s fighting at the front lines survive the test of war or are the secrets too much for young love?
"Anna appreciated their efforts to compliment her on the food, but she couldn't stop thinking about the dwindling food supplies, due to the British naval blockade, and the rumors that many Germans would die from starvation before spring. Famine has become a weapon. "
This novel reflects the stories being uncovered during the Great War. Stories waiting in the dark to be found and heard. Hlad supplies a wealth of historical references beginning with the rise of Anti-Semitism against the Jewish-Germans and the British Naval Blockade on the German citizens resulting in the “turnip winter” in Germany. These historical points help set the scene for his novel. I never knew about these historical references, but it gave me a perspective I didn’t consider when it came to the citizens of Germany. In a way, it’s relatable to the conditions being done today in another country in our present history.
This is a book I will remember when we finish 2022. I enjoyed Hlad’s novel because when I come across novels set during the Great War, I find myself discovering more about this time period than previously. I felt this novel was well-written with a plot geared to those who enjoy discovering pieces of truth inside historical fiction and to the open hearted who loves to see a loyal canine companion become man’s best friend.
Thank you to Walls of Book in Ankeny, Iowa for ordering this book. If you're looking for a book & you want to support local bookstores, the wonderful people at Walls of Books are phenomenal. Go see them & tell them The Midwest Book Mom recommended them for all your book needs.