When the Nazis entered Prague in 1942, little did Amelia know how her life would change forever. However, she soon discovered that she could not let their hatred bend her, or even her tiniest hope of surviving Nazi cruelty would become a victim of their homicide will.
Fast forward to 2017, Amelia is a strong-willed ninety-two-year-old woman with a mysterious past and a secret that is wrenching her heart. As she stands on the verge of death, Amelia understands that there is no time left for her secret to stay hidden. Through her iron will and quick wit, Amelia decides to entrust her granddaughter Emma with the story of how she survived the Holocaust. Suspended between the present and her grandmother’s past, Emma confronts the whole reality of her family’s history. As a young Jewish, Amelia experienced the full horror of the sadistic Nazi persecution against her people on her skin and mind. Yet, she also found the strength to rise and the courage to stay true to herself. Through the pages of her grandmother’s diary, Emma will embark on a journey of intragenerational self-discovery that will lead both her and beloved Grams Amelia towards finding the real meaning of freedom and love.
The Girl with the Diary is more than just a historical romance novel. Through a perfectly synchronised story, Shari J. Ryan narrates the adventures of two remarkable women whose connection goes beyond blood. In its truest sense, The Girl with the Diary describes the heart-breaking coming-of-age of young Amelia and her exceptional mental toughness and bravery against the Nazis’ murderous desires. At the same time, this novel also deals with Emma’s growth and wish to find her inner strength, which she soon discovers is an inherent family trait. Ultimately, this parallel between two generations that live on the opposite sides of history challenges the tenets of the romance genre by looking at love as a multi-dimensional force page by page.
Although the setting of World War II is familiar to historical readers, Ryan provides her novel with a fresh perspective that aims to explore the most profound emotions of each character. Her portrayal of the Holocaust is a perfect example of Ryan’s in-depth work with the most overlooked part of this dark chapter of history, the emotions of those who lived through it. The book revolves around a pivotal contrast between the canvas of the historical setting and the vivid hues of dark and light that the author uses to paint the lives of her characters in a consistent narrative build-up that keeps the reader hanging by every word. In this respect, Ryan’s style is impeccable for the story she wants to write. Throughout, she maintains a steady pace, and even the finale structure keeps the readers engaged with her narrative guide even when they cannot wait to know the end.
Shari J. Ryan is an author that knows what she wants to write and how to build her story around her purpose of keeping the memory of Holocaust survivors alive. Her dedication to the historical genre comes from a place of genuine interest and a sense of mission that deserve the reader’s trust. For this reason, The Girl with the Diary is more than a romance novel; it is a book about family, growth, and the kind of memory that can only survive if every generation takes up its story-telling role. Ryan is fulfilling this role, and for this reason, The Girl with the Diary will indeed become one of the best works in her career.