About the Book
Book:What I Would Tell You
Author: Liz Tolsma
Genre: Christian Fiction / Romance / Historical Fiction
Release date: January 1, 2023
DNA Test Unlocks a Family Mystery
Sephardic Jew Mathilda Nissim watches in horror as the Germans invade her beloved city of Salonika, Greece. What angers her most is the lack of resistance her people put up to their captors. In secret and at great risk to her life, she continues to publish her newspaper, calling her people to action. She doesn’t trust God to help them. When she and her husband find out they are expecting a child, Mathilda may have to resort to desperate measures to ensure her daughter’s survival.
Three generations later, college student Tessa Payton and her cousin take a popular DNA test only to discover they don’t share any common ancestors. In fact, the test shows Tessa is a Sephardic Jew from Greece. This revelation shakes Tessa’s tenuous faith and sends her on a journey to discover what happened to her great-grandmother and how all this relates to her faith and her life today.
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About the Author
Liz Tolsma is the author of several WWII novels, romantic suspense novels, prairie romance novellas, and an Amish romance. She is a popular speaker and an editor and resides next to a Wisconsin farm field with her husband and their youngest daughter. Her son is a US Marine, and her oldest daughter is a college student. Liz enjoys reading, walking, working in her large perennial garden, kayaking, and camping. Please visit her website at http://www.liztolsma.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter (@LizTolsma), Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. She is also the host of the Christian Historical Fiction Talk podcast.
More from Liz
Take a Trip to Greece with Me
I was privileged to travel to Greece last year to research my upcoming WWII novel, What I Would Tell You. God orchestrated it so beautifully. Because of Covid, we weren’t sure my daughter would be able to travel there for the summer internship she had applied for. Eight weeks before her scheduled departure, Greece reopened to foreign visitors. Around that same time, I sold What I Would Tell You, which is set in Thessaloniki, Greece, to Barbour Publishing. I had to go and visit!
Greece is a beautiful country. The pictures you see don’t do it justice. And to someone like me, the history is one of the best parts. My daughter and I explored the old city wall, built in the 1400s, many churches that predated the Ottoman Empire, and many excavated Roman ruins that have been dug up in the city’s process of putting in a subway system.
Because this is a WWII book, we also spent a great deal of time learning about the history of the Jews in the city. The Kapani Market, just down the street from our apartment, was a vibrant mix of colorful fruits, fragrant spices, and a cacophony of languages. I could well imagine what this old Jewish market was like prior to the war with people hawking olives, fish, and oregano.
We wasted no time in visiting the Jewish museum. I was shocked by the heavy security presence with armed guards outside of the building. Once inside, we had to show our IDs and were required to turn in our phones. Antisemitism is alive and well in Greece. But what a place. There were displays after displays tracing the history of the Jewish people in Thessaloniki from 1492 until WWII. The most breathtaking was the room with stone-covered walls, the names of all 48,000 Salonikan Jews killed in the Holocaust carved into the marble. There’s an entire scene in the book that deals with this room.
What saddened me most was what we saw when we visited the trainyard where the Jews were herded into cattle cars and shipped to Auschwitz. Before we got to where the station once stood, there was a wall on which someone had painted a mural covered with black-and-white figures in their striped uniforms, their eyes and mouths wide in horror. As if that weren’t difficult enough to view, what sickened me was the blue swastikas someone had painted over them.
We also trekked to the other side of the city to visit what had once been the Jewish cemetery, now the grounds of Aristotle University. All that remains to testify that half a million people were once buried here is a small, ill-kept memorial. There were two dead Christmas wreaths placed there. We visited in August.
In addition to a moving and thought-provoking story, I hope to also introduce you to the amazing city of Thessaloniki and give you a peek into the people and the culture of this amazing place. If you ever find yourself in Greece, plan some time in Thessaloniki. Many Americans miss this gem, but it’s packed with charm and history.
“You must be ready. The story of the Jews in Thessaloniki, or Salonika as they called it at the time, is not happy. It is sometimes hard to hear. Sometimes it rips your heart right from your chest. You saw the names on the wall. They each represent a person. They are not just letters written on a piece of stone.”
I must begin my review with this quote, because it sets the tone of much of the book. Yes, there is hope infused by the faith that Liz Tolsma includes, but it must shine out of a very dark time.
“This is the day I dreaded, the day I feared might come, the day I prayed never would. Greece will never be the same.” So writes Mathilda Nissim in her diary in 1941 Salonika, Greece, in Liz Tolsma’s What I Would Tell You. Wow!! My question would be, can I or you, read this book, and be the same? I cried. I think I may cry some for days to come. The historical part of this powerful dual timeline focuses on a young Jewish woman and how her life changes as the German occupation begins and bears down on her people.
Mathilda and her friends are so real with their fears and their love for each other, the way they bolster each other up as needed. I can taste their fears and feel their hunger. My feet freeze and I worry how to keep a young child quiet. Who to trust? And the biggest question, why is God turning His back on His people?
In the present-day timeline, I enjoyed the modern sites and tastes of Thessaloniki with Tessa. Tolsma has sold me on the idea of a trip to Greece. But what a discovery Tessa starts in motion when she visits the Jewish museum in Thessaloniki!! Will discovering the roots of her past lead her to a new and improved future?
A must-read from Barbour Books!
I received a copy of the book from Celebrate Lit via NetGalley. No positive review was required, and all opinions are my own.
“I am more afraid of what will happen if we do nothing than of what will happen if we do something.”
“We can’t live in a land where we made different choices. That’s a place where only crazy people live. What we have to do now is face what is to come with our heads held high. We can’t allow them to rob us of our dignity.”
Chillingly Magnificent!! I learned so much about Greek Jews in WWII.
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To celebrate her tour, Liz is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon e-gift card and copy of the book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.