Tuesday, February 2, 2016

HFVBT Review and Giveaway: In the Land of Armadillos by Helen Maryles Shankman

Title: In the Land of Armadillos
Author: Helen Maryles Shankman
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Scribner
Publish Date: February 2, 2016 (Today!)
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "1942. With the Nazi Party at the height of its power, the occupying army empties Poland’s towns and cities of their Jewish populations. As neighbor turns on neighbor and survival often demands unthinkable choices, Poland has become a moral quagmire—a place of shifting truths and blinding ambiguities.

Blending folklore and fact, Helen Maryles Shankman shows us the people of Wlodawa, a remote Polish town: we meet a cold-blooded SS officer dedicated to rescuing the creator of his son’s favorite picture book, even as he helps exterminate the artist’s friends and family; a Messiah who appears in a little boy’s bedroom to announce that he is quitting; a young Jewish girl who is hidden by the town’s most outspoken anti-Semite—and his talking dog. And walking among these tales are two unforgettable figures: the enigmatic and silver-tongued Willy Reinhart, Commandant of the forced labor camp who has grand schemes to protect “his” Jews, and Soroka, the Jewish saddlemaker and his family, struggling to survive."

My Two Cents:

"In the Land of Armadillos" is a collection of stories all centered on one small town in Poland in the middle of World War II. Short story collections are not always my favorite but this one blew me away. Each story centers on a different few characters although other characters from other stories appear in other stories. Using great characters and good world building, Shankman immerses readers in a world where the stakes are always high and nothing is as it seems. There's also a good dose of magical realism in this book, which is almost always a win for me!

So many of the characters in the stories are merely trying to survive. Survival is such a huge theme throughout the book. One reason that I love reading about World War II is how resilient and resourceful so many of the people had to be. So many of the stories in this book are filled with people like that. The author does a great job of letting the readers into exactly who the characters are and what makes them tick. The writing is really good!

It was hard for me to pick my favorite story in the book but my favorite was called "The Jew Hater." It's about a man who has actually pointed the Nazis towards people who were helping the Jews. He hates them. Suddenly the tables turn and he's suddenly charged with taking care of a young Jewish girl. The character development was oh so good in that story. So many of the other stories really touched me! I know this book will stick with me for a really long time!  


Want to win a copy of this wonderful book? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below (U.S. only)!

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  1. I like collections of short stories that are somehow linked. This one sounds good.
    I just finished Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit. You might like it--Poland during WW2 with a touch of magical realism. It's a YA, but one that is appealing to adults as well.

  2. Thank you so much for your wonderful review, Meg! I'm glad you liked "The Jew Hater." The little girl in the story is actually based on my mother. Many of the events in Reina's story came from my mom's experiences as a shepherd girl for a Polish farmer.

    1. That is interesting that your mother is the basis of the story. This book sounds like something I want to read!

    2. Thanks! I hope you do! The stories are fiction, but I used events from both of my parents' war experiences to build the book. I'm kind of obsessed with World War 2.

  3. Thank you for the excellent review and giveaway!

  4. Short stories aren't normally my thing, but the synopsis really caught my attention. Your review reinforced that this is something I want to read!

  5. Thanks for this captivating book which interests me greatly. The era, locale, and the stories are fascinating and I can relate with the stories since I read a great deal about that period since I am Jewish. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com


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