Thursday, February 5, 2015

Remember the Lilies by Liz Tolsma

The setting for this novel is a Japanese internment camp in the Philippines during World War II. Based on actual events, Tolsma has created a novel about the horrors of war in the Pacific.

We readers enter into the experiences of those interred, their suffering and their courage to survive. This is not a feel good novel. The conditions in the camp were terrible. We see the shrunken bodies as the amount of food provided was meager. We feel the pain as physical punishment is given for infractions of camp rules. We cheer for heroes who smuggle in extra rice to keep their fellow captives alive. We shudder at the predatory nature of some of the Japanese camp guards.

Woven through this revealing picture of the internment camp is the relationship of an American missionary and a Manila night club owner. While there is some attraction between them, their lifestyles and belief systems clash. They both have secrets from their past that may sabotage any possible romance. Only the power of the gospel could make the way clear between them. (The gospel is clearly presented in the novel.)

Tolsma has done a good job in creating this historic novel around actual events of WW II. Her descriptions of the conditions in the camp are disturbing, and even more so, her descriptions of the punishment given to violators of camp rules. But these conditions have been well documented. Many died in the camp, from disease, starvation, or execution. It was encouraging to be reminded of the faith of Christians. The title of the book, coming from Luke 12, reminds us that God will provide our needs. It is a bittersweet title as in actuality, many were tortured and died in the camp.

The only aspect of the novel I felt lacking was in the description of the camp. It was located on the grounds of a university but I just could not picture it. I wish there has been more descriptive paragraphs, painting the scene for us. Perhaps a map of the camp at the beginning of the book would have helped. I was not clear on how people could roam around the camp, how some were kept in dorm style buildings while others had their own shanties. A little more descriptive background would have helped in visualizing the scenes.

This is the third in this World War II series, with Snow on Tulips set in the Netherlands and Daisies Are Forever in Germany. Tolsma's son suggested one novel should take place in the Pacific Theater. She interviewed a woman who survived the Santo Tomas Internment Camp as a child for background. She has included an historic note at the end of the novel, indicating which events and people are historic.

In an interview, Tolsma said that she hopes readers will take away from this novel the assurance that, no matter the circumstances, God is always faithful. She also wants readers to realize how precious are the freedoms we have that we so frequently take for granted.

This is another good novel from Tolsma. I recommend it. A Reading Group Guide is included.

I am taking part in a blog tour of this book and you can read other reviews here.

Liz Tolsma is a New York Times best selling author. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and children, all adopted internationally. You can find out more at

Thomas Nelson, 384 pages. You can purchase a copy here.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Litfuse Publicity for the purpose of an independent and honest review.
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