Written by Lydia and Heather Munn (mother-daughter writing team), How Huge the Night paints a picture of life in southern France in the early years of WWII from the perspective of two teenagers, Julien and Nina. The story alternates chapter by chapter between their journeys. Based on true events, you will gain a new insight into the impact of WWII on daily life and relationships. Peace and security are quickly replaced by hate and mistrust as France becomes another pawn of Hitler.
Julien and his parents along with a paying lodger have just recently moved to the country to live with Julien's grandfather in southern France. Julien's father is a history teacher at the local school; a position that does not prevent Julien from facing the difficulties of fitting into the town. It quickly becomes obvious that the "top dogs" who rule the school don't accept outsiders very readily. Navigating adolescence is hard enough without adding the tensions of an impending war with Germany and the shortages and sacrifices required as a result. Julien's parents and grandfather still remember the suffering from the first world war and are not anxious to return to those days of hunger and fear.
In a parellel story, Nina and her younger brother Gustav are fleeing for their life after their father's death. With no papers (they were instructed to burn them for their own safety) and no money, they face hunger, inclement weather, despair and illness as they journey to France. Once they arrive, they are cruelly greeted and told to return to a refugee camp but Julien courageously steps in and helps them find places to stay where they can heal and gain strength--emotionally and physically.
Prejudice, integrity, and forgiveness are masterfully woven into the story line as Julien learns what it means to pray for his enemies, return blessings for curses, and forgive as the Lord Jesus asks him to. As he grows in confidence, he faces many challenges of character and he doesn't always make the best choices, learning that God doesn't always spare us from the consequences of hasty or impulsive words. Thankfully, Julien's family and his pastor help guide him along the path to maturity. Nina on her part, with the weight of her brother's life resting on her shoulder , must make choices that could lead to bondage or freedom. She also learns about forgiveness as well as how to begin to trust others as she is given the chance to be cared for by a woman more like her than she realizes.
This was an absolutely marvelous book. I loved the alternating stories--seeing two perspectives of life in this time period. The book gives a beautiful picture of walking by faith even through the valley of death at a time when evil was all too real and present.
Download an excerpt from the book and get a taste for this moving story. You may also enjoy reading an interview with the authors as they share insights into the story. For some background on how the book came about, you can read an interesting article at the book website, How Huge the Night. While there, you can also read some deleted scenes that were cut from the final story. You can also learn more about the town upon which the story was based. An especially nice touch is the glossary of French terms. I found the website as fascinating as the book itself--you won't want to miss either!
The authors have handled a sensitive topic in history with gentleness and grace. This is a heroic story that every adult and young person should know more about. Stay tuned for the sequel which will highlight interment camps in France.
How Huge the Night
Paperback, 304 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of How Huge the Night for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.