"The Schulz family, all members of the Mormon church, is trying to survive in Germany, during and after WWII. When Hitler invades Poland and the war officially begins, the family is quickly feeling its strain, as they have less and less food to eat. Anna Schulz often stands in line for hours, only to find the market shelves empty. This becomes the least of her worries though, when, one by one, the men of the Schulz family head off to defend their country. The story follows Dieter, the middle son, just 10 years old when the war begins, as he learns to cope with the war around him. Read about his stubborn streak and spontaneity, and how it gets him into trouble, how he defies Hitler's law by giving aid to a Jew and subsequently finds himself in the biggest trouble of his life, and what happens when he has to decide between loyalty and love. Will Dieter ever be able to forgive himself for all of the things he has had to do to survive the war, or will he have to live with his guilt forever?"
I enjoyed reading Pocket of Guilt for the most part, but there were more than one instance in the book where the author made it pretty obvious that this was her first book. I think she tried to tell too much story in one book, and the story would have been more enjoyable as a series. There are many story lines in the book, and many of them aren’t fleshed out very well. I would have loved to see a trilogy here. One book could have dealt with the beginning of Nazi persecution against the Jewish population and how Dieter and his father tried to help them. An entire other book could have been written on Dieter’s new addiction to stealing food and other items to avoid starvation and his path to redemption. Another volume could have dealt with how Dieter got Leo, an orphaned Jewish boy to safety in the middle of a huge war, and without catching the notice of a nasty Hitler Youth bully.
As the book stands it has all three of the above plot lines plus three romance stories, and other little side trips. The most developed character is Dieter, but we also get points of view from his family. I felt like some of these points of view were inserted randomly just so the author could get more historical information put into the book, which made a lot of scenes feel forced. There is also a scene where the author inserts a biography of Adolf Hitler that sounds like it comes from a 21st century textbook rather than a teenaged Hitler youth giving a report to his classmates.
The book is only 300 pages long, but felt much longer, because of how many story lines the book contains. With that being said I really felt like I came to know Dieter and his family, and I cared about what happened to them. It was interesting to read a book from the point of view of and LDS family in Mannheim, Germany during WWII. The advantage of the book all being one novel is that we get to find out what happens to Deiter and his family. We get to see the family at their highest and lowest points, and we get to see them slowly recovering after the war also. The timeline of the book covers from the beginning of the war to the end of the war, and a little bit after during the American recovery.
So, I felt like too much happened in this book, but that the characters were interesting, the story told from a unique angle, and most of the writing was enjoyable. So, this is not a perfect debut, but still an okay read.