Barbed Wire and Daisies
Outskirts Press (2012)
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford for Reader Views (1/13)
In her debut novel “Barbed Wire and Daisies,” author Carol Strazer delivers an emotional and, at times, heart-wrenching historical account of German refugee Marike Wiens and her family.
The story opens during the final days of World War II in war-ravaged Prussia. Marike, her four children and her sister Agathe and her two children take flight from the only home they have ever known. The Russian army is closing in and their mission is to destroy the final remnants of what was once a tight-knit Mennonite community of indelible faith. Marike and the children are huddled in the basement of an abandoned row house in Danzig, Germany. They are waiting for her sister Agathe to return, hopefully with food. They are going to Denmark - a place of safety; yet a country that wanted none of the responsibility or the onus to care for any of the thousands of displaced German refugees.
Marike and Agathe continue their journey into the fear of the unknown. They are without their husbands, Horst and Herman; yet with each step, they wonder if they will ever see them again. They are lost to a war that contradicts the very fiber of Mennonite beliefs - an undying oath-taking to the conviction of non-violence and all-encompassing faith in Christ. Prussia is no longer and to turn around in hopes that things would be different simply isn’t an option anymore. When they arrive at the home of Abelhard and Theresa, Marike’s brother and sister-in-law, their safety is temporary as they plan the next leg of their journey.
Through endless crossing of land and sometimes sea, they arrive at their destination - the first of many refugee camps filled with conditions and horrors that will be their lives for the next several years. It is the strength of character and tenacity of their human perseverance that enables these families to prepare for a life where anything truly is possible.
I admire Carol Strazer’s ability to write such a compelling story in “Barbed Wire and Daisies.” War is rarely a topic that leads to a happily-ever-after ending, particularly the topics targeting the outlandish tragedies of World War II. Strazer delivered sensitivity as she patiently developed her work of fiction. Her infusion of real circumstances breathed a depth of credibility into each character she introduced. World War II is a time when any historian must question the existence of humanity. It is admirable for Strazer to have selected this topic because she maintained a level of poise and grace through her words as she delivered a tragic work of fiction. This is not a novel for the faint of heart; rather, it is a thought-provoking story that leads the reader on a journey toward the resurrection of faith.