The Scent of a Storm
by Annette Oppenlander
GENRE: Historical Fiction
A heart-wrenching love story for the ages – inspired by true events
Eastern Prussia, 1944: Young lovers Annie and Werner are separated from each other when he is drafted into Hitler’s Volkssturm. While the SS orders Werner to remove the dead bodies of frozen refugees from Königsberg’s streets, Annie discovers she is pregnant. As she urgently awaits Werner’s return, rumors of the advancing Red Army mount and with it, alarming reports of what they do to women. Running for their lives, Annie and her mother embark on a life-threatening journey west. Even before they can escape by boat, Annie makes a horrifying mistake, one that will haunt her forever. Werner, arrested and imprisoned in a Russian gulag, manages to escape after four months of cruelty and returns home. But his and Annie’s farms lie abandoned—the love of his life and his own family have vanished…
East Berlin, 1989: On the evening of November 9, when the borders between East and West Berlin open for the first time in nearly thirty years—a day which ultimately heralds Germany’s reunification—Annie watches a correspondent on West TV who reminds her of her childhood sweetheart Werner, the man she has thought dead for 45 years. Together with her daughter Emma, Annie sets out on a search…
Somewhere beyond the forest, thunder rolls. The sun has disappeared behind hazy clouds and a gust of wind travels between the trunks, rippling the pond’s surface.
Werner’s gaze travels upward, a frown on his forehead. “We better go, before this thing hits.”
As an answer, I pull on my clothes in silence and climb on my bike. We take off at breakneck speed across the uneven forest floor that turns dark instantly with pelting raindrops. Every so often Werner slows down to let me catch up. His bike is much larger than mine and he can fly like a swallow hunting bugs.
When we pull away from the stand of trees, the wind hits us like a wall. The sky has turned charcoal and the clouds are so low, they seem to press down on me. My ears are filled with the roar of thunder, the wind, and the smacking sounds of tires on wet ground. Water fills my eyes, nose, and mouth. It runs down my bare arms, soaking into my clothes and shoes.
The path is no more than a blur. A flash of lightning cuts the sky into ragged brightness. My thoughts wander to the story I heard years ago about a boy being killed by lightning. Out here on the open fields, wet and tall on our bikes, we’re lightning rods. Anxiety creeps up my spine. If it weren’t for me, Werner would be home already. Instead, he goes slowly to keep an eye—
The ground rushes up to me, cold muddy water hitting my face and neck. Pain shoots up my wrist into the elbow and then further up into my shoulder. The world lies on its side, the bike still between my legs. Blood colors the mud, gaudy and bright against the leaden sky.
“Annie?” Werner appears by my side and carefully lifts away the bicycle.
I try to sit, but my wrist screams.
Guys, this book. I’m in awe of Ms. Oppenlander and her storytelling. Words can not describe how much this book touched me, made me cry, absolutely made me madder than a wet hen, and then soothes my soul. Admittingly, I’m not a huge historical fiction reading. That said, I can watch historical documentaries all day long and never be bored. I’m more of a visual learner when it comes to history. However, Ms. Oppenlander’s writing put me in the story and never let me go.
Annie and Werner are just teenagers without a care in the world when the war starts. Werner is drafted and Annie turns up pregnant. There are parts of the book that are hard to read in the beginning. If you thought the Nazis were terrible, the Russians were worse at times. I won’t go into detail but trigger warnings should be posted. Of course, I’ve watched documentaries on the subjects but reading it is worse. Ms. Oppenlander has done her research on it shows. She vividly brings to life how it was to be Annie and Werner during the war and the aftermath. It’s horrible, humbling, and at times, hopeful.
One of the best things about the book is that Ms. Oppenlander tells the story from both Annie and Werner’s povs. It’s easy to follow and when it comes to the wall coming down, it really picks up steam. While the story is fictional, a lot of the book is a fact. Look it up. Hopefulness is what kept me in the story throughout. I needed Annie and Werner to reconnect after everything that they went through. I’m sure that there were lots of stories like Annie and Werner’s that I bet if you did a little digging, you’d find them.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Annie and Werner’s story. One part fiction, one part fact, and the other part hopeful. I encourage everyone to read it and discuss it. However, it’s not for young minds and that’s only because of the atrocities that are told. Sadly, that part isn’t fiction; it’s factual.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Annette Oppenlander is an award-winning writer, literary coach, and educator. As a bestselling historical novelist, Oppenlander is known for her authentic characters and stories based on true events, coming alive in well-researched settings. Having lived in Germany the first half of her life and the second half in various parts of the U.S., Oppenlander inspires readers by illuminating story questions as relevant today as they were in the past.
Oppenlander’s bestselling true WWII story, Surviving the Fatherland, received multiple nominations/awards. The recently translated German version received the silver Skoutz Award 2020. Uniquely, Oppenlander weaves actual historical figures and events into her plots, giving readers a flavor of true history while enjoying a good story.
Oppenlander shares her knowledge through writing workshops at colleges, libraries, festivals, and schools. She also offers vivid presentations and author visits. The mother of fraternal twins and a son, she recently returned to her home, Solingen, Germany where she lives with her husband.
Nominations/Awards for Surviving the Fatherland
2017 National Indie Excellence Award
2017 Winner Chill with a Book Readers’ Award
2017 Kindle Book Awards Finalist
2017 Discovered Diamond Historical Novel
2018 Indie B.R.A.G. Award
2018 Readers’ Favorite Book Award—Bronze
2019 Global eBook Award—Gold
2020 Skoutz Award—Silver (Germany)
IWIC Hall of Fame Novel
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE
Annette Oppenlander will be awarding a $15 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.