A German-American woman copes with a pandemic, and her neighbors’ hostility during the Great War, in “a heart-rending story of endurance” (Historical Novel Society).
Stuart, Nebraska is a long way from the battlefields of Western Europe, but it is not immune to the horrors of the first Great War for Peace. Like all communities, it has lost sons and daughters to the fighting, with many more giving themselves over to the hatred only war can engender. Set in 1918 in the farm country at the heart of America, The Meaning of Names is the story of an ordinary woman trying to raise a family during extraordinary times. Estranged from her parents because she married against their will, confronted with violence and prejudice against her people, and caught up in the midst of the worst plague the world has ever seen, Gerda Vogel, an American of German descent, must find the strength to keep her family safe from the effects of a war that threatens to consume the whole world.
“Suddenly, ‘liberty cabbage’ replaces ‘sauerkraut’ on food menus, job advertisements warn ‘no krauts need apply,’ and neighbors demand the nearby university stop teaching courses in ‘that vile language’. . . . Shoemaker crafts eminently realistic characters; her descriptions of unreasonable fear and hatred are particularly effective.” —Publishers Weekly