by Terry Montague
With fear and despair rising within, it is through her quiet, compassionate father that Lisel discovers faith and hope. Now, in a desperate journey to find her sister, Lisel and her neighbor flee Berlin and the advancing Russians for Frankfurt, a city under the protection of the Allies. But their flight to safety is filled with pain, hunger, and terror. However, with spiritual lessons and blessings from her father, the support of departed loved ones, and her tried but undying faith in a loving Heavenly Father, perhaps Lisel can emerge like the fireweed—rising strong and beautiful from scorched earth —transforming bitterness and despair int
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I didn’t think so.
Terry Bohle Montague is a BYU graduate and a free-lance writer, having written for television, radio, newspaper, and magazines including The Ensign and Meridian Magazine. She has also been published as the author of book length historical non-fiction and fiction.
Her non-fiction work includes the book, Mine Angels Round About, the story of the LDS West German Mission evacuation of 1939 which occurred only days before the Nazi invasion of Poland.
Her LDS fiction, Fireweed, is loosely based on her interviews with the evacuated West German missionaries and their families.
Terry studied with Dwight Swain and Jack Bickham, as well as David Farland. Her writing awards include those from LDS Storymakers, Idaho Writers’ League, and Romance Writers of America.
Fireweed Characters’ Descriptions
Marta Spann (Lisel’s 18-year old sister): Even though Marta was only two years older than Lisel, Marta was always the grown-up, sensible, predictable one. She wore her soft brown hair in the same short, smooth style every day. She got up at the same time every morning and went through the same tedious, daily chores of classes at the Red Cross nursing school then shopping and housework. She never complained. She never went to movies, preferring to sit at home, reading her textbooks or listening to music on the radio with the mending in her lap. When she became angry or upset, her warm, brown eyes narrowed, but she rarely allowed herself to pronounce an angry word.
Lisel Spann (Our 16-year old main character): In contrast, Lisel, her red hair braided in long strands that hung on either side of her gamine face, her red-brown eyes that flashed her every emotion. She frequently lost her patience, her temper, and her heart. Lisel said everything she felt and often made a fool of herself. Her busy imagination took her out of the confusing, contradictory atmosphere of Nazi Germany to glittering, glamorous Hollywood where she danced in a sleek, pink gown trimmed with a feather boa on the arm of Fred Astaire. She sang too loudly in church just because she liked the music, but her singing made the branch president cover his smile with his hand, the music director scowl, and the red come up in her Papa’s neck. She often shocked her father and provoked her sister. Everyone said she was that way because she was sixteen, a school girl. They said she would grow out of it. But Lisel hoped she would not. It would be like growing out of herself. Of growing out of her life.
She describes herself as “A scarecrow of a girl, with a nose like a pig’s and hair the color of carrots. Boys will think I belong on a farm.”
Papa: Joseph Spann carried himself with the vigor and briskness instilled by years of military services – his back straight, shoulders squared, every movement precise. Lisel could hear the quick snap of his footsteps on the cobbled street. Papa insisted on wearing his one, good remaining suit, the gray jacket buttoned across the matching vest, the tiny clip with decorations from the Great War on his lapel, the knotted tie, the creased trousers, now a little baggy at the knees, his worm but frequently blocked hat. He smoothed his gray mustache and adjusted his wire-rimmed glasses.
Frau Heideman: (Apartment neighbor): She was an overbearing demanding woman whose unstylish and soft appearance sometimes fooled people into believing they were dealing with someone of half her determination and slyness. Her voice was shrill and she had a tendency to pry and question. Lisel did not like Frau Heidemann but she tolerated her for Kurt’s sake and was civil for Papa’s.
Kurt Heideman: (Frau Heidemann’s son and Lisel’s sometime friend and later, a romantic interest): Kurt was a handsome young man with a lopsided grin. Tall, a little thin, maybe, but broad-shouldered. His eyes were a bright, clear blue under heavy brows, his lips firm, and his jaw straight and decisive. But his high, thin nose had an odd crook in it, like it had been broken once and never set. He sang off-key but often performed a nimble two-step down the rows of vegetables in the apartment’s community garden.
Grete Spengler: (Lisel’s 16-year old best friend): She is fair haired and blue-eyed as an Aryan girl is expected to have. “No man is interested in me and I do not understand. I am the correct Nordic type and my blood is pure. I have the interests of the Reich at heart and my hips are wide enough to bear many children. I have a racially desirable body and a man ought to regard me racially desirable. But no regards me at all when I am with you (Lisel).”
How About a Snippet?!
In the middle of June, loudspeakers in factories, shops, restaurants, and street corners blared out national and party anthems followed by the announcement that Paris had been captured. Then the current hit was played, “We March on England.” There was no cheering. No celebration.
Glumly, the Germans went back to their activities without comment.
Lisel heard the news with mixed feelings. How tired she was of war! Tired of greasing hand grenades! Tired of worrying about her brother, Michael, somewhere in France. Tired of worrying about Kurt! Tired of ration coupons and long lines! Tired of being tired! But, surely, the war almost over. The newspapers said by Christmas. Then Michael would be home. By Christmas, she would be finished with her Compulsory Service.
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