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Motherland is inspired by stories from author Maria Hummel’s father and his German childhood, and letters between her grandparents that were hidden in an attic wall for fifty years. It is the author’s attempt to reckon with the paradox of her fathera product of her grandparents’ fiercely protective love and their status as Mitläufer, Germans who went along” with Nazism, reaping its benefits and later paying the consequences.
At the center of Motherland lies the Kappus family: Frank is a reconstructive surgeon who lost his beloved wife in childbirth and two months later marries a young woman charged with looking after the surviving baby and his two grieving sons when Frank is drafted into medical military service. Alone in the house, Liesl attempts to keep the children fed with dwindling food supplies, safe from the constant Allied air attacks and the tides of desperate refugees flooding their town. When one child begins to mentally unravel, Liesl must discover the source of the boy’s infirmity or lose him forever to Hadamar, the infamous hospital for unfit” children. The novel bears witness to the shame and courage of Third Reich families during the devastating final days of the war, as each family member’s fateful choice lead the reader deeper into questions of complicity and innocence, to the novel’s heartbreaking and unforgettable conclusion.
Maria Hummel is the author of the novels Wilderness Run and House and Fire(Copper Canyon, 2013), winner of the APR/Honickman First Book prize in poetry. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Poetry, New England Review, Ploughshares, The Sun, and The Believer. Her work was also featured in the 2012 Pushcart Prize anthology, and she was a finalist in Narrative’s second Annual Poetry Contest. A former Stegner Fellow in Poetry, Hummel is a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University and lives with her husband and sons in San Francisco.