Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book Review: The Night Sky by Maria Sutton

This extraordinary and unflinchingly honest memoir takes us on a riveting journey into the hearts and souls of three enigmatic people whose destinies are forever changed by the events of World War II. The secrets of misguided love and passions are revealed as the author journeys between the past and the present to solve the mystery of a handsome Polish officer with piercing blue eyes and sun-colored hair. Maria Sutton takes us to the dark green hills and valleys of the ancient Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine, where the woody fragrance of birch trees and new-mown hay fills the fresh, crisp air after a heavy rain. Vicariously, we see a sunrise over Poland obscured by brightly colored swastikas on warplanes and then we will be taken into suffocating cattle cars, lice-infested stalags, and to the Dachau death camp. Further down a country road, the hearty laughter and beer steins clinking with each salute to the Fuhrer’s astonishing victories can be heard.

As Maria takes us on this odyssey to solve a decades-long mystery, she learns the family secrets of untold heroism, quiet courage, and a mother’s love – and of tragedy, disillusionment and heartbreak. At the end of her long journey, Maria uncovers a shattering and painful truth. But the secret, however heartbreaking, would also become the greatest gift she would receive.

Ultimately, the quest to uncover a painful truth becomes an inspiring and absorbing journey of the heart.


The Night Sky covers Mrs. Sutton's forty plus year journey to wrap up some familial loose ends  resulting from the German and Russian occupation during World War Two.  From tracking her biological father to finding her mother's lost brother, Sutton's research starts with an overheard conversation between her mother and a friend when she was fourteen to many years of research, and following every slim lead.  Along the way she realizes some stories are best left to the imagination. 

While the story of Sutton's family, especially her mother, is rather fascinating, the delivery of said story leaves much to be desired.  The book is a mix of freshman creative writing paper, dry history thesis, and a teenager's diary.  Sutton will spend two sentences of a four sentence paragraph describing the weather and location of a particular day, yet the next two sentences will cover months and years of time.  This halfhearted attempt at making the story interesting actually deterred from it.  

In regards to her unknown father, Sutton's mother was rather tight-lipped with information, presumably to distract her daughter from her research, but it backfired.  Sutton fills much of the first half of the book with fantastical supposition about her missing father, the romantic ideals of a young girl.  While this is rather charming as a fourteen year old, as a thirty-something it comes across rather sad and juvenile.  Lauding your father as a secret spy/hero based on the fact that his records were hard to find and a comment about how good he looked in his uniform is pure speculation and greatly takes away from the factual story. 

I must say that the spelling and grammar were perfect, which is unusual to find in a self published e-book.  Sutton's research into the time and location of events is obviously well done, and I learned several things about the era that I didn't know.  All in all, I'd say the book was  mildly entertaining, yet I wouldn't recommend it to anyone as a casual read.  The overly flowy writing, coupled with romantic stylings of unknown characters and historical facts presented as dry as the Sahara make this more a book for an avid WW2 buff...and one who doesn't expect much from it, at that.

*The Book Diva's were given a copy of this book for review purposes only. We were not compensated for this review. All opinions are that of the reviewer.