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TMW Book Reviews

Review – Anna’s Story: A True Story of a Young Girl’s Will to Survive in the Aftermath of World War II

by

Steven G. Kautner

 

“Anna’s Story: A True Story of a Young Girl’s Will to Survive in the Aftermath of World War II” unwraps the harrowing yet inspiring life of Anna Friedrich, who, from the tender age of five in 1938 until her mid-fifties in 1984, endured a life with extraordinary trials and tribulations. The story begins with Anna’s early years in Yugoslavia, where the specter of WWII looms large. As ethnic tensions escalate, Anna and her family find themselves ensnared in the brutal aftermath of the war, facing displacement, persecution, and the struggle for survival in concentration camps. As the war ends, the story follows Anna’s fraught journey to rebuild her life within the ruins of post-war Europe. But how will Anna’s early experiences of war and displacement shape her views?

She then migrates to America in search of a new beginning and faces the challenges of integrating into a new society while trying to maintain her cultural identity. Throughout her life, Anna crosses personal tragedies, marital strife, and the challenges of motherhood in a foreign land. Was she able to find peace and fulfillment in America, or did the shadows of her past continue to haunt her?

“Anna’s Story,” authored by Steven G. Kautner, is a meticulously detailed recounting of the life of this woman whose early years were overshadowed by the horrors of World War II and its aftermath. This biography is not just a tale of survival but a profound display of identity and strength of the human spirit.

Steven G. Kautner brings a deeply personal touch and authenticity to the book, being Anna’s son. The book is structured to follow Anna’s life chronologically, offering a detailed portrayal of her life from childhood in war-torn Yugoslavia to her later years in America, providing a comprehensive view of the challenges she faced and overcame. The book has a descriptive quality to it. Kautner has a knack for bringing scenes to life, utilizing Anna’s detailed memories to paint a vivid tableau of each phase of her life—his intimate connection to the experiences brings emotional depth as well. Whether describing the bleakness of a concentration camp or the bustling streets of post-war Chicago, the descriptions are evocative and richly detailed.

Kautner handles the delicate subject of war and displacement with sensitivity and nuance. The text is sympathetic but never overly sentimental, striking a balance between the harsh realities of Anna’s past and her unyielding hope for a better future. The personal anecdotes and historical context offer readers not just a historical education but a deeply personal story too.

Then there’s the portrayal of the immigrant experience—Anna’s challenges in adapting to American life, balancing her cultural heritage with her new identity, and dealing with the complexities of family dynamics in a new country will really resonate with readers. While there is a heavy focus on the positive aspects of Anna’s triumph over her circumstances, the book does not shy away from the darker moments of her life. However, these aspects are handled with care, focusing on how they contributed to her growth and understanding of the world.

Steven G. Kautner writes a beautiful biography that not only tells the story of a woman’s survival against the odds but also celebrates the spirit of perseverance that defines the human condition. This book is a significant contribution to the body of WWII literature and recommended for readers interested in historical biographies, war narratives, and stories of personal resilience.

– The Moving Words Review

Official Entry: The Most Moving Book Award, Jan. 3, 2025