Read The Plum Tree Online

Authors: Ellen Marie Wiseman

Tags: #Fiction, #Jewish, #Coming of Age, #Historical

The Plum Tree

BOOK: The Plum Tree
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More advance praise for Ellen Marie Wiseman and

THE PLUM TREE

 

 

 

 

“The meticulous hand-crafted detail and emotional
intensity of
The Plum Tree
immersed me in Germany
during its darkest hours and the ordeals its citizens had
to face. A must-read for WWII fiction aficionados—
and any reader who loves a transporting story.”

 

—Jenna Blum,
New York Times
bestselling
author of
Those Who Save Us

The
PLUM TREE

E
LLEN
M
ARIE
W
ISEMAN

KENSINGTON BOOKS
www.kensingtonbooks.com

All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.

Table of Contents

More advance praise for Ellen Marie Wiseman and
Title Page
Dedication
A
CKNOWLEDGMENTS
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A
UTHOR’S
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OTE
Teaser chapter
A READING GROUP GUIDE
- THE PLUM TREE
Discussion Questions
Copyright Page

For my mother, Sigrid,
the strongest woman I know—
with much love and admiration.

 

In memory of my beloved sister, Cathy.
I miss you every day.

A
CKNOWLEDGMENTS

One of my fondest fantasies during the endless solitary hours spent writing this novel was the prospect of honoring the people who supported and believed in me along the way. I do so now, in no particular order, with great joy.

Thank you to my friends and family for not saying I was crazy when I told you I was working on a book, and for understanding when I didn’t call or pick up the phone. To all who are not mentioned here by name, please know that you have touched me and helped me along this journey and will have my love and gratitude always.

For reading earlier drafts and bolstering my confidence, thank you to Douglas Towne, Jana Chavoustie, Debbie Battista, and Mary Giaquinto, DVM. Thank you to Gary Chavoustie for igniting the spark that led to the idea and for being my “longest” friend. Thank you to Sophie Perinot, author of
The Sister Queens,
for your friendship and excellent advice, and to all my author friends over at Book Pregnant, for always being there whenever I need someone who understands this wild ride. BP rocks!

I am especially grateful to my kind and brilliant agent, Michael Carr, for taking a chance on me and for helping me revise the manuscript. Without you, I would not have been able to achieve this final step of publication. I hope we can have lunch again someday. Next time I won’t be nervous! I’d also like to thank Michael’s associate, Katherine Boyle, for helping this novel find a home.

I am forever indebted to my gracious and insightful editor, John Scognamiglio, for making my dream come true. John’s expert editorial guidance, along with the sharp eye of my copy editor, Debra Roth Kane, strengthened the book in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Many thanks also to the rest of the Kensington team for all your hard work turning my manuscript into a real live book.

I will never find adequate words to thank my mentor, William Kowalski, award-winning author of
Eddie’s Bastard,
without whose formidable talent and immeasurable patience this novel would not exist. Thank you for teaching me to “Always Return To The Right Foot” and how to be a storyteller. I will be forever grateful for your gentle guidance, your kindness and generosity and, most of all, your friendship.

To my beloved mother, Sigrid, thank you for giving me a rock to stand on. You raised me with love, instilled in me an appreciation for hard work, and taught me that with determination, all things are possible. You are an inspiration to all who know you. I hope you’re half as proud to be my mother as I am to be your daughter. Thank you for tirelessly sharing your stories and always believing that I have what it takes to share them with the world. This novel serves as a love letter to the beautiful place where you grew up and to the memory of sweet Oma and Opa. I hope it does them justice. To my father, Ted, thank you for always being there, and for giving me the love and security I needed to have a childhood with the freedom to dream. Thank you for the many trips to Germany, for sharing your love of the lake, and for all the incredible family memories.

Thank you to my big brother, Bill, one of the best men I know, for always being someone I can count on. You and I have gone through a lot together, and I love you with all my heart. To my sister-in-law, Yvonne, thank you for your love and support, and for listening.

Dear sweet Bill, my husband, my best friend, my partner in crime. You’re the kindest, most generous person I know, and I’m proud to be your wife. Thank you for unquestioningly and unhesitatingly supporting me during the years I was working on this novel and for not complaining about the numerous times we had soup and sandwiches for dinner. Thank you for your steadfast love, for riding this roller coaster with me, for enduring years of ceaseless babbling about WWII and Nazis, and for never faltering in your belief in me, especially when I didn’t believe in myself. I’m proud of us, and I’ll love you until the day I die.

And finally, a most heartfelt thanks to my wonderful children, Ben, Jessie, and Shanae, and my precious grandchildren, Rylee and Harper, for making me proud and loving and supporting me, no matter what. Not a day goes by that I don’t celebrate the magnificent gift of being your mother and grandmother. You are my life, my world, my universe, and I love you with everything that I am.

By appointing Hitler Chancellor of the Reich you have handed over our sacred German fatherland to one of the greatest demagogues of all time. I prophesy to you this evil man will plunge our Reich into the abyss and will inflict immeasurable woe on our nation. Future generations will curse you in your grave for this action.

—Former general Erich Ludendorff,
in a telegram to President Paul von Hindenburg

C
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1

Germany

 

F
or seventeen-year-old Christine Bölz, the war began with a surprise invitation to the Bauermans’ holiday party. On that brilliant fall day in 1938, it was impossible to imagine the horrors to come. The air was as crisp and sweet as the crimson apples hanging in the orchards that lined the gentle foothills of the Kocher River valley. The sun was shining in a blue September sky quilted with tall, cottony clouds that swept rolling shadows over the countryside. It was quiet in the hills, except for the scolding jays and scurrying squirrels as they gathered seeds and nuts for the coming winter. Wood smoke and the mossy scent of spruce intermingled to produce a smoldering, earthy aroma that, despite the fall chill in the air, gave the morning depth and texture.

Due to a shortage of rain that year, the leaf-covered trails of the forest were dry, and Christine could have run along the steep, rocky sections without fear of slipping. Instead, she took Isaac Bauerman’s hand and let him help her down the lichen-covered boulder, wondering what he’d think if he knew how much time she spent in the woods. Normally, she would have leapt off the side of Devil’s Rock as if she were immortal, landing squarely on the slippery layers of pine needles and spongy earth, knees bent to keep from tumbling forward. But she didn’t jump this time, because she didn’t want him to think she was a lumbering tomboy who lacked class or manners or grace. Worse than that, she didn’t want him to think that she didn’t have the sense to realize that the legend about the boulder—that some boys playing hooky from church had once been struck and killed by lightning there—was nothing more than a spooky fable. He’d laughed when she told him, but after, as they gripped the boulder’s cracks and fissures and moved down its ancient side, she wished she hadn’t bored him with such a foolish childhood tale.

“How did you know where I . . .” she said. “I mean . . . How did you find . . .”

“I looked in my father’s desk for your wage records and got your address,” he said. “I hope you don’t mind that I invited myself over and joined you on your walk.”

She walked faster, so he wouldn’t see her smile. “It’s all right with me,” she said. It was more than all right with her; it meant that the hollow sensation she felt whenever they were apart had disappeared. For now, at least. As soon as she had woken up that day, she’d started counting the hours until she could go to her job at his house. After a breakfast of warm goat’s milk and brown bread with plum jam, she had done her chores, then tried to read, but it was no use. She couldn’t stay at home another minute. Instead of watching the clock, she decided to go into the hills to search for edelweiss and alpine roses for Oma and Opa’s anniversary table.

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