Thoughts Are Free by C. J. McKinney
Bibliography, 144 pages
Copyright: 2014 by RoseDog Books, Pittsburg, PA
Reviewed by: Kerri Lukasavitz, www.kerrilukasavitz.com
More than 6 million Jews lost their lives in concentration camps during World War II through Adolf Hitler’s self-appointed chancellorship over Germany. But what is often overlooked are the estimated 4 million dead and missing German soldiers and over 400,000 German civilians killed during air raid bombings in cities such as Hamburg, Stuttgart, Berlin, and Dresden from Allied Forces during the second darkest period in modern German history—the first being World War I. Also forgotten are the remarkable stories of survival; the people, the family members who lived through these horrific times and managed to create some sort of life for themselves despite the desolation of war. C. J. McKinney’s Thoughts Are Free is one of these true stories.
McKinney begins Thoughts Are Free with the birth of Annelore, daughter to parents Artur and Paula Liebach on May 18, 1936 in Stuttgart, Germany. We follow Annelore’s extraordinary story along with her immediate family of three—her mother, Paula (her father, Artur, was “recruited” by Hitler and lost to war), and younger sisters Helga and Gerda—and her extended family relatives from her life as a small child during the war into her young adulthood after the war and then as an adult throughout Germany’s rebuilding efforts.
McKinney’s writing captures the graphic realities of life in war-torn Germany through the eyes of its civilians; the people who fought for food, shelter, water, disease prevention, and some sort of normalcy in a heavily bombed war zone. Even after the war, McKinney describes the brutal aftereffects people experienced from being desensitized from so much death and destruction, which surfaces as family bitterness, alcoholism, molestation, and domestic violence.
But Thoughts Are Free also contains hope. Experience the resurrection of Stuttgart with the determination of its civilians to rebuild the city brick by brick. Share in Annelore’s complicated love story with Wigunt and the eventual birth of her children along with her sisters’ marriages and their children. Discover the transitions her extended family members made and how those changes affected Annelore’s life.
The inclusion of black and white snapshots of Stuttgart, Germany from World War II and photographs of family relatives adds to the visual realness of McKinney’s story. Wonderfully written, Thoughts Are Free will grab your attention from the first words in the first chapter, “Silence—deafening silence . . . ,” through the final four at the end of the epilogue, “We shall never forget . . .” Recommended for adult readers.
Kerri Lukasavitz has a BFA from Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design and an MA in English from Mount Mary College. She is the recipient of a 2020 Residency at Write On Door County; the 2019 Hal Prize winner for Nonfiction—her piece, Homeland, was published in the Peninsula Pulse; her debut middle-grade novel, Mystery Horse at Oak Lane Stable, was a 2018 Royal Dragonfly Book Award winner; and she published two articles—Dispelling the Myth of the Starving Artist and Messengers in the Night: Dream Interpretation Benefits Life—in Arches newspaper.
Wisconsin Writers Association
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