MLA Gold Award Site

Excerpt from Motherland by Maria Hummel, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Motherland

by Maria Hummel

Motherland
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2014, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2015, 400 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


It was a small meal, but she still felt obligated to be grateful for it. She had grown up with her aunt's and uncle's stories of starvation after the last war. Her aunt claimed that she'd chewed yarn dipped in grease to make her stomach feel full. Her uncle said he'd eaten a soup made from boiled crickets. They told, and sometimes shouted, these stories to their six children and Liesl, to remind them all to appreciate their laden table. Liesl had excelled at gratitude. She ate it for supper, always the last to be served. She wore it on her back, always clothed in her aunt's stained, cast-off jumpers. She listened to it all night, positioned as nurse outside each incoming baby's room, ordered to wake if he cried. She would be in Franconia still, head bowed and dutiful, if her friend Uta had not rescued her with the chance to work at the spa in Hannesburg.

She set a lid ajar on the pot and crept upstairs to find Ani swooping his wooden plane through the air, Jürgen sleeping under an afghan by his brother's hip. Hans was out gathering sticks for kindling. "He wakes up if I move," Ani whispered, and then made a crashing sound through his teeth as his plane dove down. The view beyond the half-fogged window was gray-white and peaceful. It had been an entire week since the last air raid, and Liesl had a strange slack feeling whenever she looked at the sky, as if a rope once pulled taut was suddenly ripped free and falling.

"You're a good brother," Liesl said.

Ani put his nose to the window, avoiding her tender gaze. "How come you don't have any brothers or sisters?" His frank question made her flush. "My parents just had me," Liesl said.

Ani drew a circle in the fog on the glass. "But how come they don't visit?"

Liesl sighed. She had been wanting to tell the boys that her mother had died when she was six. That she knew and understood their loneliness. But another part of her resisted. She did not like Hans and Ani thinking this was how the world worked: that mothers died and fathers disappeared, as hers had, soon after the pneumonia had taken her mother. War-addled brains, her uncle had said. Shiftless, said her aunt. They'd received one postcard from him from Chicago, USA, and never heard from him again. Liesl did not want Ani to know that once both parents vanished, a child became a burden to be passed around until some practical use was found for her. If she had favored her bonny, buxom Mutti, it might have been easier. But Liesl had resembled her father—thin and serious, with brown-red hair that frizzed loose from its braids. She wasn't good at mending or strong enough for mucking stalls. She thrived at enduring the pummeling devotion of small children, however, and finally found her place as the caregiver for her sturdy, wild cousins, teaching them each to read and write and swim in the Badensee, as her mother had begun to teach her before she died. It wasn't until Liesl had abandoned them for a position at the spa that she'd realized what she wanted: her own life, and one day, her own family.

"They passed away," she said finally. "But maybe you can meet my cousins sometime," she added, though she knew her relatives would never leave their farm and village, much less Franconia.

Jürgen stirred and woke, lifting his head, staring at them with wide, uncomprehending eyes.

"How did your parents die?" Ani asked.

"In the war. Your brother's hungry," she said, and carried Jürgen down to the kitchen to heat his milk.

Someone knocked loudly on the front door. A hard, official sound.

The fist dug into the wood and made it ring.

Liesl felt her body moving across the kitchen with Jürgen, heard her voice call to Ani to stay upstairs.

Excerpted from Motherland by Maria Hummel. Copyright © 2014 by Maria Hummel. Excerpted by permission of Counterpoint Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Systematic Euthanasia

Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Everyone Brave is Forgiven
    Everyone Brave is Forgiven
    by Chris Cleave
    I've always been interested in the history of the Blitz, the period of intense aerial raids of ...
  • Book Jacket: Saving Montgomery Sole
    Saving Montgomery Sole
    by Mariko Tamaki
    Understanding identity is one the most important parts of adolescence. For some teenagers, those who...
  • Book Jacket: All Tomorrow's Parties
    All Tomorrow's Parties
    by Rob Spillman
    In this absorbing memoir, co-founder of Tin House magazine, Rob Spillman, recalls his artistic ...
Win this book!
Win The 100 Year Miracle

50 Copies to Give Away!

The 100 Year Miracle is a rich, enthralling novel, full of great characters.

Enter

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Fair Fight
by Anna Freeman

A page-turning novel set in the world of 18th century female pugilists.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper
    by Phaedra Patrick

    In a poignant and sparkling debut, a lovable widower embarks on a life-changing adventure.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Alaskan Laundry
    by Brendan Jones

    A fresh debut novel about a young woman who moves to Alaska and finds herself through the hard work of fishing.

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I I A Sign O T T

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.