THE THINGS WE CANNOT SAY
by Kelly Rimmer
I often say I’ve read so many books about the Second World War and the atrocities committed by the Nazi occupations that I’ve read enough on the subject. But then a friend suggested this book and I’m really glad she did. Although of course it has many sad parts it also tells the story of two generations of women and their unimaginable struggles and heartbreak. Especially, for me, the courage and strength that millions of people demonstrated during this time in history.
The prologue of the book is set in Russia in 1942, where a priest is presiding over the wedding of Alina and Tomasz. It’s an extremely cold day for September but Alina says “Our love had been my reason to live and to fight for many years.” In spite of the deplorable conditions of the refuge camp, Alina “refused to let it shake my confidence in the man I loved.”
The second story begins with Alice (Alina’s Granddaughter) trying to get her son Eddie off the floor of the grocery where a major meltdown is happening. Eddie is autistic and is screaming and emptying the grocery shelves because they have changed the label on his favorite yogurt. Alice has been rushing everywhere this morning doing her best to get to the hospital to see her beloved Grandmother who has suffered a stroke. The dilemma that Alice deals with is that in the seven years since Eddie was born her husband, Wade, has been unable to adapt to the reality of Eddie’s disability. She is basically doing it alone.
The book goes back and forth between the brutality and injustice her Grandparents endured to modern day depicting what Alice is confronted with daily, especially when her Grandmother has an urgent request. Alina or Babcia (the Polish word for Grandmother) is unable to speak because of the stroke she suffered. But, through an App on their Ipad she types “Find Tomasz, Need help, Emergency.” Alice is stunned because her Grandfather died the year before. Doesn’t Alina remember?
To honor her Babcia’s request, in spite of significant obstacles in Alice’s home life, she travels to Poland to try and unlock the mystery of what her Grandmother has asked of her. The rest of the story I’ll leave for you to discover. Both women’s stories are blended together beautifully and in a heartwarming way.
I’ll close with a quote from the author, “Like many of their generation, they had little time to reflect or grieve even once the war ended. Their focus was on the future and the physical, emotional and psychological wounds of war were soon trapped beneath the surface of the new life they were forging.”