Stumbling Stones

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
285 Pages
Reviewed on 02/28/2024
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Author Biography

Bonnie Suchman is an attorney who has been practicing law for forty years. Using her legal skills, she researched her husband's family's 250-year history in Germany, and published a non-fiction book about the family, Broken Promises: The Story of a Jewish Family in Germany. Bonnie found one member of the family, Alice Heppenheimer, particularly compelling. Stumbling Stones tells Alice's story. Bonnie has two adult children and lives in Maryland with her husband, Bruce.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Stumbling Stones is a work of fiction in the historical fiction, interpersonal drama, and sociocultural writing subgenres. It is best suited to the general adult reading audience. Penned by author Bonnie Suchman, the novel follows the life of Alice Heppenheimer, a woman born into a successful German Jewish family at the turn of the twentieth century. Despite the limitations put upon her by her family, Alice convinces them to allow her to attend art school and pursue a career in women's fashion. As she thrives in her career and settles into married life, Nazi Germany emerges, posing an existential threat to Jewish people like Alice. The novel chronicles Alice's harrowing struggles as she navigates the challenges of persecution and hatred. Despite reluctance to leave her home, Alice faces the ultimate question: Can she and her husband escape Nazi Germany in time?

Author Bonnie Suchman has crafted an immersive and atmospheric work that offers a poignant journey through a tumultuous and dark period in human history. Suchman masterfully portrays Alice's strength and determination amid unimaginable adversity by employing a detailed, up-close narrative that engages with her every psychological and emotional response. It’s easy to see how her attitudes shift as the horrifying persecution of her people begins, yet everything unfolds naturally without the reader being spoon-fed her pain and suffering. The narrative captures the essence of a woman driven to achieve, even in the face of persecution, highlighting the incredible capacity that people have to survive against the odds. This inspirational tone carries into the atmosphere and descriptive feel of the novel, always offering a silver lining. As the story unfolds, the tension builds, leaving readers on edge as they root for Alice and her husband's survival. Overall, Stumbling Stones is a compelling and thought-provoking novel that I would not hesitate to recommend.

Lucinda E Clarke

I approached Stumbling Stones by Bonnie Suchman expecting this was a novel like so many others written about that terrible time in Germany in the mid-twentieth century. But this narrative is so much more than that. It tells the story of the Heppenheimer family, Jewish citizens who lived in Frankfurt, Germany. Alice is the main character, a product of Joseph’s second marriage to Emma. There were several siblings from the first marriage, but Alice is closer to her sister Selma. In the beginning, Joseph, with four of his sons, runs a successful business in Frankfurt but his daughter Alice has ambitions beyond marriage and children. She persuades her parents to allow her to attend an art school in Nuremberg. She has a passion for fashion, especially handbags, and, on leaving the art school, she serves an apprenticeship. After surmounting several obstacles, she finally realizes her dream of opening her own design and dressmaking business. Her first marriage is not successful, but on meeting an old friend, life takes a turn for the better. But she is a Jew, living in Germany, and life for both her and her family begins to fall apart.

I have read many books about life in Germany up to and including World War II and have often wondered why most of the Jews did not emigrate to a safer country. This book answered my question. In Stumbling Stones, author Bonnie Suchman has painted a vivid picture of what day-to-day life was like for a Jewish family in those times. I wasn’t aware of so many of the laws enacted against Jews by the Nazi government. All through the book the net is drawn tighter and tighter around freedoms until the final insult; payment for transportation for their deportation. This book pulled me in. I was living with the family, particularly Alice, Alfred, and Selma. I could feel their fear and their uncertainty and I suffered with them as they struggled to survive. They were so brave, facing one disappointment after another. This is a book that will grab your soul and is one you will not forget in a hurry. Highly recommended.

Samantha Dewitt (Rivera)

Alice knows that the Great Depression is going to put a damper on her dreams, but she’s still not about to give up. And even the failure of her first business will not keep her down. But what about the rising antisemitism that’s beginning to take over her beloved Frankfurt? Will it stop her from achieving her ultimate goal? Or even worse, will it harm her family and everything that they hold dear? As the Nazi party begins to gain traction and the Jewish population of not just Frankfurt but other areas of Germany begin to lose their rights, she wonders if there might be something far worse on the horizon. She’s not wrong but her unique story plays out across a span of years, leading from Frankfurt to Nuremberg and back before her worst fears come true in Stumbling Stones by Bonnie Suchman.

Alice Falkenstein nee Heppenheimer’s story, Stumbling Stones by Bonnie Suchman, may sound familiar because we’ve heard similar stories of Jewish people and families that were destroyed by the Nazis and the Holocaust. But it’s also a unique story that really draws you into the life of an amazing young woman who challenged the boundaries of her day, who loved her family, and who kept fighting for what was important to her. The story has a good pace, providing the reader with an in-depth look at Alice’s life before the worst of the crimes against the Jewish people, and moving through everything that she experienced until her eventual deportation or supposed ‘emigration’ and beyond. Stumbling Stones will pull the reader in and each of the characters, including Alice’s family and friends (what few she was able to have) are well-developed and just as intriguing as she is.

Frank Mutuma

Alice was born at a time when women did not pursue their own careers. Her strict family expected her to work for the family business after graduating high school and eventually get married like other young women. Alice beats the odds and attends art school, as she always wanted. After graduating, Alice faces antisemitism that scares her, and she has to leave her first apprenticeship. Things get worse very quickly with the rise of nationalistic parties, and eventually, Alice has to leave Nuremberg and return to her hometown of Frankfurt. To find out about her career, navigation of the business world, the eventual fall of the Weimar Republic, the takeover by the Nazis, and the horrible crimes committed against the Jews, read Stumbling Stones by Bonnie Suchman.

Stumbling Stones by Bonnie Suchman is a must-read! This page-turner is highly engaging with well-crafted dialogue that brings the story and the well-developed characters to life. This thought-provoking work got me thinking about a wide variety of issues, such as politics and the role we should play in combating evil. It also triggered my curiosity to read more about the events before the Second World War and the horrors the Jewish people had to endure. The unique plot flows seamlessly, and I loved how vivid the author was in the descriptions of events and emotions of the characters. The author also used suspense to great effect, which made me look forward to reading subsequent chapters. I am keen to read something else by this talented author.

Doreen Chombu

Alice Heppenheimer was a German Jewish woman who had a passion for fashion and a dream of opening her own fashion house. To achieve her goals, she went to an arts and crafts school in Nuremberg and got married to Ludwig, a fellow German Jew. While working as an apprentice, Alice faced antisemitism from her coworkers and was suddenly dismissed from her job. Despite her husband's warning about the Nazis' rise, Alice persisted in pursuing her dreams. She achieved some success, but her life began to fall apart, and she returned to her family's hometown of Frankfurt. Alice realized that Germany was no longer safe for Jews during her stay in Frankfurt. Stumbling Stones by Bonnie Suchman narrates Alice’s journey during the rise of the Nazi regime.

Stumbling Stones was inspired by the life of Alice, who was the great-aunt of Bonnie Suchman's husband, Bruce. The author is a talented writer who has skillfully portrayed this German Jewish family through her creative writing. By conducting extensive research, she has been able to reimagine their lives, aspirations, and personalities in a way that resonates with readers. Alice, the protagonist, is a remarkable individual who embodies qualities such as determination, bravery, and ambition. Her advocacy for women to be productive and her commitment to making a positive impact makes her an admirable character. The book provides readers with a more personal perspective on the rise of Nazi Germany. The propaganda, bullying, and gradual discrimination of the Jews are portrayed in a way that is impactful and memorable, thanks to the emotional attachment readers develop with Alice. The book is a must-read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading emotionally engaging stories about the Holocaust.