Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Bells of Times Square by Amy Lane

This book truly broke my heart. I can't remember when (or even if..) I EVER found myself crying for a WHOLE hour (the last of the book). Truly a masterpiece, though I know that no matter how much I'll try my review won't give it the justice it deserves.

The book start with a very old Nate Meyer. Like every year since 1946, Nate have been going to Times Square in New Years Eve to listen to a church bells that never actually ring in honor of his wartime lover. At this age and time, Nate can barely communicate and is strapped to a wheelchair - but that won't stop him from his yearly ritual. 

By his side is his (not yet out) gay grandson, trying to ask his grandfather for acceptance. Nate sees his grandson's lover and looking at them together makes him relive again everything he had and lost with HIS lover - Walter.   

The whole story is told from Nate's POV. The first and last chapters refer to him in his old age, but most of the story is told when he was a young man, recruited as a photographer in WWII. His job isn't taking photos of officers as his father thought, it was actually flying through enemy territory while taking photos of what is seen below. In his last mission he seemed to photograph something the Nazis weren't taking chance with and his little airplane crashed down into French territory. He had no chance of survival if it wasn't for Walter. Walter found the airplane with the dead body of the pilot and an injured Nate and decided to take Nate back to his cabin and take care of him.

I don't want to say more about Walter or their situation because I truly don't want to spoiler ANYTHING. I'll just say Nate and Walter found a little time of solace in an abandoned summer house. In their time there, Nate not only got better, he loved and was loved back in ways he didn't think would ever be possible for him (being gay). Their time together was magical and while they understood it might be temporary they vowed to meet again when the war is over on New Year's Eve in Times Square. 

That's all I'm going to say about the plot. Though there is MUCH I could say I simply won't. I enjoyed both MCs though we only got Nate's POV and the supporting characters though didn't take a lot of space were a great addition to the story (mostly near the end). Nate's love for Walter was epic. His feelings for him, and everything that happened in his life ever since was ALL tinted in Walter's color. He LIVED to be reunited with him. It was beyond heartbreaking. 

Nate being Jewish added another dimension to the story that made it even better for me (being Jewish myself). His struggles with his religion not only about being gay, but also regarding what happened in WWII was SO accurate. It's so common nowadays to stumble upon a Jew who originally came from Europe and hear the exact musing about faith, tradition, god. Many lost their faith during and after the war or it has transformed to something else after seeing the horrible consequences of the Holocaust. Nate's belief wasn't the same after the war mostly because what he shared with Walter. I loved that he talked to a more "progressed" Rabi who told him that if he is unable to ask forgiveness (since he doesn't regret his acts) he should consider that maybe it wasn't in fact a sin. How could loving Walter be a sin? Yet it is forbidden in the bible..

There's a scene that broke my heart in which Nate finds out about the death camps. For me, reading this was so difficult. Being in his place KNOWING what is going on and being unable to do anything about it (Nate has never been a soldier, just a photographer). I felt his grief as it was my own, and it was and always will be. This is a part of my history I will always carry with me and as we Jews say about the Holocaust - Remember and never forget. 

Yet Remembering is NOT enough if you ask me, we need to ask MORE of ourselves. The millions who were murdered in this war died for NOTHING. All those the Nazis killed were accused of being different and unwelcome without any real reason! The Nazis spread hate through the labeling of "others" and didn't stop there - they rounded them to be killed! What we SHOULD remember and pay attention to wherever we go is not exclude but ACCEPT others for being exactly like us yet different - that's humanity - being unique while being basically the same. There is a place for all of us here as long as we respect one another for who everyone chose to be regardless of our own or their beliefs.

This book was truly perfection. It broke my heart to pieces and I'm actually not sure if it was mended back together. I finished this book two days ago and yet I wasn't able to write this review because I was still "there" inside the book, trying to take in everything that happened. 


Read on:
6-7 January 2018

No comments:

Post a Comment