Review: The Far Side of the Sky by Daniel Kalla

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books; First Edition edition (June 5, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 076533233
  • Source: Publisher

November 9, 1938 is a well-known date in world history. Also known as Kristallnacht, a night of terror for Jews living in Germany, the night Nazi’s unleash a new sort of terror. Dr. Franz Adler, a renowned surgeon, is desperate to find a place of safety for his family, especially after his brother is found lynched. So, with his daughter, his recently widowed sister-in-law, and friend they find refuge in the unlikeliest of places, Shanghai. The cost of leaving Germany is a hefty ones. Luckily for them, Nazi’s want to rid Germany of Jews so they are granted permission to leave the country they called home.

In Shanghai, Franz finds work at a refugee hospital. The doctors there feel truly privileged to have a doctor of his skill, willing to assist. There he meets Soon Yi “Sunny” Mah, a young nurse that has devoted her time to aiding the injured refuges. The safety they hoped for isn’t guaranteed in Shanghai, however.  As the Chinese city becomes the last source of hope for thousands of European Jews, the Japanese Imperial army storms through China, taking control of Shanghai.

The chemistry between Franz and Sunny is strong but the situation brewing around is a damper to any sort of romantic relationship. As Franz struggles to survive in this political minefield, the Hippocratic Oath he took as a doctor is constantly on his mind when he’s asked to save the life of the enemy. He’s torn between doing what is right, as a doctor, and what the repercussions will be if those near and dear to him find out he was aiding the enemy.

The Far Side of the Sky is a truly remarkable political thriller, focusing on a period of history that, while is very familiar to many of us, has aspects that were not known to many. This reviewer was aware of the horrible tragedies that took place during Kristallnacht but had no knowledge of Shanghai serving as a refuge for European Jews.

The extent of Kalla’s research into these events is truly compelling. The detail he uses to express these historical facts is tremendous. One can almost forget that this took place over seventy years ago for the world Kalla creates makes the reader feel immersed in the terror experienced by the main characters.

This is not to say that the subject matter of this novel is dreary and depressing. There is a great deal of passion and determination at the hands of Franz. He emotion he feels for his daughter and his tormented family is real, vivid. The care and generosity shown by the Chinese and European Jews, both in similar circumstances, is heartwarming.

The page count of this novel may be overwhelming for many, but in my opinion shortening this book would take away from the important historical facts that need to be retold, building of characters that need to slowly evolve, not rushed.

The Far Side of the Sky is a truly rewarding novel of hope, perseverance, forcing the reader to contemplate how they would react, put in the same situations in which Franz was forced to deal.  Highly, highly recommended.

Check back later today for a post about my opportunity to meet to meet Daniel Kalla at an event at my favorite independent bookstore!

7 thoughts on “Review: The Far Side of the Sky by Daniel Kalla

  1. And this is going on my must-read list. I went to a Jewish school growing up, so we touched a bit on those who fled to Shanghai during the war, and, based on your review, I’ll learn a lot more by reading this.

  2. I hadn’t heard much about this book, but I am always fascinated of the diverse stories of Jews leaving Germany etc. Thanks for the review.

  3. Thanks to alerting me to the “must-read historical fiction of the summer.” It sounds like a page-turner and I am interested in the Shanghai / WWII aspect. I’m a bit interested in the author’s backlist too. Where does he find the time to do it all? I will try not to be daunted by the length of “Far Side.”

  4. I’ve read Night by Wiesel, Diary of Anne Frank and maybe a couple other books about the Holocaust years. Knew nothing about Jewish victims taking refuge in Shanghai. Totally new knowledge for me. Enjoyed your review too. Loved it. Would like to read this one. Will write it on my list.

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