Alice Hoffman and I have a love-hate relationship. I want to love her books, but most of the time I either do not finish them or finish them under duress. However, with The World That We Knew, I found an Alice Hoffman novel I love. Even though it occurs during World War II, her exploration of what makes us human resonates in today’s fractious environment.
While World War II is the backdrop of the story, The World That We Knew is not a World War II novel. Rather, it is a novel that explores love and sacrifice as key aspects of one’s humanity. Told through various narrators, we get an understanding of what it feels like to be prey among a country of predators, always watchful, always anxious. We also get a glimpse of how people survive in such impossible situations, fighting through action, survival, and love. Never pontific, Ms. Hoffman allows her characters to show the integrity and fortitude required to keep going after horrific losses and the love that binds past to present.
The World That We Knew is an unassuming story with a quiet message. That message, however, loudly resonates within a world in which overt displays of hatred and bigotry become more commonplace and society becomes increasingly ideologically and politically divided. As we enter a new presidential era, The World That We Knew brings a reminder that hope and love will always win.