"In an unassuming apartment building in Brooklyn, New York, three lives intersect as the reality of war invades their lives. Young Esther is heartbroken when her father decides to enlist in the army shortly after the death of her mother. Penny Goodrich has been in love with Eddie Shaffer for as long as she can remember; now that Eddie's wife is dead, Penny feels that she's been given a second chance and offers to care for his children, hoping he will finally notice her and marry her after the war. And elderly Mr. Mendel, the landlord, waits for the war to end to hear what has happened to his son trapped in war-torn Hungary"--Cover, p. 2.
The novel begins when Eddie, widower and father of two children, enlists leaving his children in need of a guardian while he was away. To his surprise, slightly pathetic next door neighbor Penny - who is secretly in love with him - volunteers to watch them while he is away. I know I may be a little harsh on Penny by saying she's pathetic , but sadly it's true. She is the product of two overbearing parents who not only belittle her at every opportunity but are so protective she has no confidence in herself at all. One of the joys of this novel is watching Penny grow from an insecure girl to a mature woman. I absolutely disliked her in the beginning, she was mousy, needy and giving all at the same time. I was surprised to see how much she changed. More importantly, I thought her rebirth was completely believable.
Mainly the novel focuses on the life and relationships of Penny, the kids and Mr. Jacob Mendel, their landlord. I loved the time I spent getting to know Mr. Mendel. I do not know a lot about the Jewish faith. I also have never read a novel which focused on a father's point of view, waiting for news of his Jewish son in war stricken Hungary. It was so heartbreaking emotional. I think Ms. Austin did a beautiful job of making Mr. Mendel's heartache and grief so real to me. I also enjoying watching him heal from the loss of his wife and the uncertainty of his son's welfare.
With each character Ms. Austin introduced, I was more and more engrossed in the story. It flowed so easily. And I really felt like I was a becoming part of their makeshift family. I loved that there was a bit of mystery and romance. I loved that there was hope.
As I said earlier, I wouldn't have read this novel if I knew it discussed faith. I think it didn't take anything away from the novel, in fact I think it added to it. I was moved by their struggles with God, and their spiritual reawakening.
Overall this novel was a great read and one I would have gladly paid for.
This book resonated with me, sometimes on a fairly deep level as I pondered Mr. Mendel's spiritual journey. Yet is had a lot of warmhearted scenes and it was fun to see Penny develop as a character as she gradually transformed from a woman afraid of her own shadow to a vibrant, independent young women. I heartily recommend it to fans of historical romances, especially if they enjoy books that get them thinking about issues of faith.
This novel was an enjoyable read set during WWII. It follows the story of Penny Goodrich and Jacob Mendel. At the start, Penny's lack of self-esteem annoyed me. She made assumptions that were wrong and refused to stand-up for herself, but I did like following her personal growth as she grew above her circumstances and became an independent woman.
However, I found elderly Jacob's story far more interesting as he struggled for news about his son in Hungary. The author gave an insight into what European Jews were facing from letters sent from Avi and his wife. Their plight was heart-wrenching.
A story of secrets, separation, friendship, forgiveness and faith, "While We're Far Apart" was an easy, predictable read showing the importance of family ties and trust.