Author Interview and Book Review: ‘My Dearest Dietrich’ by Amanda Barratt

I am absolutely thrilled to have Amanda Barratt here today to talk to us about her latest novel, My Dearest Dietrich, which talks about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his fiancé, Maria von Wedemeyer. This is an amazing story, folks, and one that is definitely for the keeper shelf! Let’s welcome Amanda now.

Were you a reader as a child?

I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t thrive on the power of story. Even before I could read, my mom would take me to the library to check out stacks of books, which she would then read to me. Usually, it didn’t take more than a couple of days for us to finish the stacks and return for more! I was reading on my own before the age of four, and haven’t stopped since. Books and stories have always been a way for me to process the world around me, to expand my horizons, and grow as an individual. At around the age of seven or eight, I discovered The Diary of Anne Frank, and was captivated as I delved into the true story of a girl who endured a tumultuous and heartbreaking period in history. After reading her diary, I wanted to learn more about the times in which she lived, and proceeded to read children’s fiction and nonfiction about the war and the Holocaust. Many years later, as I wrote the first draft of the novel that became My Dearest Dietrich, I remembered my childhood interest, and how it sparked the beginnings of a journey of learning and sharing the stories of courage, hope, and self-sacrifice that emerged out of the depths of such darkness.

Tell us why you decided to write about Bonhoeffer.

I discovered Dietrich Bonhoeffer through Eric Metaxas’s excellent book Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness. I was deeply moved by the story of a pastor who, because of his faith, refused to stand by and look on silently in the face of evil. Yet it wasn’t until I came across a quote from Love Letters from Cell 92, and discovered Maria von Wedemeyer that a desire to share this facet of Bonhoeffer’s life took hold of my heart. I wanted to give readers a fresh portrayal of Dietrich Bonhoeffer—not only as an author, pastor, theologian, and spy for the resistance, but as a man who’d fallen passionately in love, who sacrificed not only his own future as a result of his actions, but a future with the woman he longed to marry. I see Bonhoeffer as a model we as Christians can look to today. Though he had flaws and imperfections like all of us, he earnestly sought the will of God and gave up his own comfort for the sake of living out costly discipleship.

Can you tell us about your research for this book?

The research for My Dearest Dietrich was more in-depth than any project I’ve undertaken before. Not only did I familiarize myself extensively with World War II Germany, I needed to immerse myself in Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Maria von Wedemeyer’s lives. Since they were real individuals, I felt an immense responsibility to stay true to their essence. I read volumes of letters written by Bonhoeffer, the correspondence between Dietrich and Maria compiled in the book Love Letters from Cell 92, Bonhoeffer’s sermons and books, and Bonhoeffer biographies galore! I loved discovering new facets of their lives, and weaving them throughout the novel.

The book is profound and yet painful to read because we know the ending.  How did you get through this process?

With many, many tears! Though I’ve written emotionally intense stories before, I’ve never wept along with my characters. With this novel, I wrote the final scenes with tears in my eyes. Yet the tears I shed were not only those of sorrow, but of hope, just as the story is one of heartbreak, but also of wholeness. During the time they had together, Dietrich and Maria cherished the love they shared, but both of them went on to carry that love with them the rest of their lives, even though Maria lived on for thirty years after Dietrich. To love anyone, for any length of time, is a gift. And just as the imprint of a footprint lingers after the person who made it passed by, so do the imprints of those whose lives have touched ours remain forever within us.

What do you want readers to take away from this book?

The ways stories can impact the heart are as varied as the individuals who read them. So I’m not sure I can pinpoint one exact message. But what I will say is that writing this book and discovering the lives of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Maria von Wedemeyer changed me both as an author and as a person more than any project I’ve written to date. The questions Bonhoeffer and those in World War II Germany faced are questions we face as Christians today, albeit on a different level. The church is called to take a Christ-honoring stand on political and cultural issues, and to accept the personal consequences that may come with that stand. Bonhoeffer spoke out against the persecution of the Jews and published a book on the Psalms during a time when the leaders of Nazi Germany wanted to erase the Old Testament from the Bible. He illegally trained seminary students in the truth of Scripture until his work was shut down by the Gestapo. Later, Bonhoeffer took an active role in the conspiracy against Adolf Hitler. And Maria, despite having lost a father and brother on the battlefield, took the risk of becoming engaged to Dietrich, though she was aware of his involvement in activities that could (and eventually did) lead to his arrest. As it says in James, faith without works is dead. Both Bonhoeffer and Maria lived out their faith through action during a time when many Christians turned aside and did nothing. Their radical discipleship both challenged and convicted me.

Bio: ECPA best-selling author Amanda Barratt fell in love with writing in grade school when she wrote her first story—a spinoff of Jane Eyre. Now, Amanda writes romantic, historical fiction, penning stories of beauty and brokenness set against the backdrop of bygone eras not so very different from our own. Her novel My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love released from Kregel Publications in June 2019.

She’s also the author of My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York: Adele’s Journey, as well as seven novellas with Barbour Publishing. Two of her novellas have been finalists in the FHL Reader’s Choice Awards.

Amanda lives in the woods of Michigan with her fabulous family, where she can be found reading way too many books, plotting her next novel, and jotting down imaginary travel itineraries for her dream vacation to Europe.

Connect with her at www.facebook.com/amandabarrattauthor and visit her online at amandabarratt.net.

Blurb:
A staggering love illuminating the dark corners of a Nazi prison…

Renowned German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is famous for his resistance to the Nazi regime and for his allegiance to God over government. But what few realize is that the last years of his life also held a love story that rivals any romance novel.

Maria von Wedemeyer knows the realities of war. Her beloved father and brother have both been killed on the battlefield. The last thing this spirited young woman needs is to fall for a man under constant surveillance by the Gestapo. How can she give another piece of her heart to a man so likely to share the same final fate? Yet when Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an old family friend, comes to comfort the von Wedemeyers after their losses, she discovers that love isn’t always logical.

Dietrich himself has determined to keep his distance from romantic attachments. There is too much work to be done for God, and his involvement in the conspiracy is far too important. But when he encounters a woman whose intelligence and conviction match his own, he’s unprepared for how easy it is to give away his heart.

With their deep love comes risk–and neither Dietrich nor Maria is prepared for just how great that risk soon becomes.

Based on detailed historical research, this true love story is at once beautiful and heartrending. My Dearest Dietrich sheds new light on a world-famous theologian . . . and the woman who changed his life.

Amazon link for My Dearest Dietrich: https://amzn.to/2UINshB

My Review and Rating: 5 Stars!

‘It was what it all came down to in the end. He wanted to live, to see his parents and marry Maria, but ultimately it wasn’t about him. It was about submitting to the will of One greater than himself, seeking that will more than he sought everything else. Valued anything else.’

How in the world do you start to read a book you know is going to end in tragedy? I could not bear to start for a while because I knew what was going to happen. It was going to break my heart. I have long admired Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was one of the greatest theologians of the last century and gave his life for Christ. Bonhoeffer refused, in the face of Nazism, to compromise the values of the Bible and of Christ to Hitler’s evil machinations. And he paid with his life. He knew that was a distinct possibility, yet he forged on, knowing that he was following the right path.

Amanda Barratt took on an admirable task when she made the decision to write about Bonhoeffer’s life. And she gave us a deeper look at his life, concentrating on not only his incredible faith and bravery, but his love for his fiancé, Maria von Wedemeyer. The fiancé he would never be blessed to marry, but who he would carry in his heart all the way to the gallows. And Barratt writes this so well, so well indeed, that the reader’s heart just weeps with what they know is to come. Her research is impeccable and she manages to convey such deep emotion that I nearly weep every time I just look at this book. Well done!

And one quote from Bonhoeffer just stirs my soul: ‘Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine.’ May we all have this view.

*My thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.


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