About the Book
Book: A Picture of Hope
Author: Liz Tolsma
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
Release date: October, 2021
A Photojournalist Risks Her Life to Save Children
Full of intrigue, adventure, and romance, this new series celebrates the unsung heroes—the heroines of WWII.
Journalist Nellie Wilkerson has spent the bulk of the war in London, photographing pilots taking off and landing—and she’s bored. She jumps at the chance to go to France, where the Allied forces recently landed. She enlists Jean-Paul Breslau of the French underground to take her to the frontlines. On the journey, they come upon an orphanage where nuns shelter children with disabilities. Can they help save them before the Nazis come to liquidate it?
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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 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
Why Another WWII Novel Set in France
You may well read the back cover of my latest release, A Picture of Hope, and wonder why on earth we need another WWII novel set in France. After all, Kristy Cambron just had one. Melanie Dobson and Sarah Sundin will be coming out with theirs in 2022. So why did I feel the need to write my novel with the same setting?
First of all, I’m a Francophile. I love all things French. It started when I took French in high school. Everyone else was learning Spanish, but I wasn’t into being part of the crowd. There were only a few of us in the class, and it was great fun. We had a wonderful teacher. Being able to pull out some of that French, refine it a bit, and use it in the book was a blast. But I also love French food (who doesn’t?) and everything else.
Secondly, I hadn’t written about France before. When I wrote this proposal at least five or six years ago, I didn’t know France would be so hot. God did, and the book came about in His perfect timing. I’d explored the Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Philippines. Such a shame that I was leaving out France, so I set about to write a novel located in that country.
Thirdly, there was so much good material to pull from. The French resistance, while small, did good work and sacrificed a great deal to get Jews out of the country and into Switzerland or Spain. The books that Kristy, Melanie, Sarah, and I write are all so different. Only the setting is the same. And when I found out that the famous mime Marcel Marceau was part of the resistance, I couldn’t help but giving him a cameo. Be on the lookout!
Along the way, I discovered some truly heartrending incidents that took place in France. They also compelled me to write this book. I long for the world to remember what happened so that we will never forget. And so that the atrocities committed there will never be repeated.
Fourthly, this was originally the third book in a series. Don’t worry – it’s a stand-alone. Maybe someday I’ll get to publish the other two. The women in the series are all American journalists in Europe. One is a reporter, the other is a broadcaster, and so I decided to make Nellie, the heroine in A Picture of Hope, a photojournalist. And where better to take pictures than on Omaha Beach soon after D-day. How she gets there is based on a very interesting true story, so be sure to read to the end for that one.
There are so many stories about WWII to be told and so many countries that participated in the conflict in one way or the other. The ground is so rich that we aren’t plowing the same parcel. You’ll find all of these books to be very different from each other, each with its own message, its own voice, and its own plot.
The focus in my book is on children with Down syndrome. I have a background in special education, and my husband and I adopted a child from the Philippines with an intellectual disability, so I’ve always had a heart for people with special needs. My daughter brings us so much joy that I wanted to share a glimpse into what these remarkable people are truly capable of.
So that is why I wrote a WWII novel set in France. Make yourself a cup of café au lait, butter up a croissant, and enjoy A Picture of Hope!
“For too long, too many had been silent. She had a chance to give voice to those who were helpless. She couldn’t allow it to pass.”
Ever since doing a unit on Anne Frank in eighth grade, I have read about and studied the Holocaust. It’s difficult to describe why this horrific time in history speaks to me so much, except to say that the resiliency of those who endured and, in some cases, survived the horrors inflicted upon them inspires me to learn more and to make sure that their legacies are never forgotten. What seems so egregious and dangerous, sadly, is that as the remaining members of that generation pass away, the world appears ready to forego the painful lessons learned from the Nazi regime and travel down the same destructive path. This is why stories will always be important, to keep history alive alongside contemporary society, not to inhibit but to inform. A Picture of Hope by Liz Tolsma may be a work of fiction, but it’s based on the actions of real people and true events that occurred during the latter part of WWII.
What do you get when you take a female photojournalist, a French maquisard, and a war and mix them together? A riveting, heartbreaking, inspirational story that manages to be unique in a heavily-occupied genre. A Picture of Hope is truly distinctive to me for its focus on another group that Hitler was intent on eliminating: the disabled. I do not recall ever previously reading any stories or accounts that concentrated on the intellectually disabled—in this case, children with Down Syndrome. As photojournalist Nellie Wilkerson notes of Claire, “Every inch of dirt on the planet was stained with blood. With evil. Was there any good left anywhere? Perhaps only in the brown eyes of a Mongoloid girl.” (A note to sensitive readers: The author explains her careful and respectful choice to use the historically-accurate term Mongoloid in place of Down Syndrome at the very beginning of the book.) Having been friends, until he passed away, with an intellectually-disabled boy who was born one day before me, I can attest that these special individuals possess remarkable compassion and joy. Again, Nellie captures the essence of Claire: “From a disposable child to one who would inspire the entire world to care.”
Many wonderful characters inhabit these pages. Nellie is eager to do all that she can for the Allies, and her reckless impatience leads her straight into trouble on more than one occasion. It also brings her to Jean-Paul Breslau, a maquisard of one of the rural guerrilla bands of French resistance fighters battling to wrest control of the country from Germany back into French hands. Jean-Paul’s training did not include how to deal with a rebellious, independent female, but a seminal figure in this story, Sister Maria-Theresa, assures him that “No matter what comes into our lives, God uses it in the best way for us. His ways and His plan are perfect. You will learn that in the coming days, though the lesson will be difficult.” Likewise, Nellie slowly begins coming to terms with the darkness of her childhood in America while simultaneously dealing with the challenges of her present, coming at last to the realization that “Perhaps there were those who were good in this world. Not good in and of themselves, but good because they reflected the light of Christ in the midst of this choking darkness.” As each of the characters moves forward through obstacles both personal and shared, what emerges is not only A Picture of Hope, but a testament of faith and a legacy of love.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥
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To celebrate her tour, Liz is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and copy of A Picture of Hope!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.