Batsheva “Eva” Roselli is a violinist, an Italian citizen and a young Jewish woman caught in the turbulent time under Mussolini’s rule in Italy and Hitler’s oppressive vision. As a child, Eva was privileged due to her family’s successful business in Florence, but when a boy comes from America to live with Eva’s family and war is later declared, her entire world changes.
“I danced around him for years, trying to get his attention, wanting only to see him smile. Wanting only to be near him, wanting only to love him and be loved by him.”
Angelo Bianco is the son of Italians who emigrated to America. After Angelo’s mother dies, his father sends him to Florence to live with the Roselli family and to ultimately become a priest. Distraught over his mother’s death, Angelo meets Eva, two years his junior, and they form a bond that is continually tested
“When you love someone that completely, you will do anything for them.”
What transpires over time between Angelo and Eva is beautiful and endearing yet they are surrounded by loss and the hatred. Using his position as a Catholic priest, Angelo is determined to help give shelter to Jews hiding from the SS and when Eva’s family becomes a target, he knows there is no other way but to remain a priest to carry on his mission to save lives.
“But we have to live in order to learn. And sometimes we have to fight in order to live.”
With Eva being highly principled but also a realist, her strength is tested when she decides to help her brethren in every way available to her. Eva’s path takes an unexpected journey but she uses that opportunity to fight for her family, for love and for a greater cause.
“They can humiliate us and dehumanize us. But they cannot take our thoughts. They cannot take our talents. They cannot take our knowledge, or our memories, or our minds.”
The intensity of the current state of events lays heavy upon Eva and Angelo. Living in constant fear and hiding Jews is their goal but their love continues to shine and grow stronger leading them to a place where they can no longer deny. With Angelo’s vows to the Church, his heart is conflicted and he must reconcile his reasons for choosing the priesthood. After years of fighting, Angelo’s choice becomes clear.
From Sand to Ash is a book that causes reflection and produces a range of serious emotions due to the subject matter. But, while there is so much tragedy, there is also unyielding bravery, resistance and dignity for those who fought and protected those in danger. Within this setting, it may seem an unlikely place for love to flourish, but during such trying times, life and death becomes crystal clear and the intensity of such feelings deepens. For me, reading how Eva and Angelo united for a greater cause was extremely moving.
Told in third person, Amy Harmon writes a narrative that is compelling, candid and thought provoking. Set in such a turbulent time in history, the sense of family, principle and friendship prevails raising hope and humanity. I highly recommend!