The Good at Heart

A Novel

The Good at Heart

Based on the author’s discoveries about her great-grandfather, this stunning debut novel takes place over three days when World War II comes to the doorstep of an ordinary German family living in an idyllic, rural village near the Swiss border.

When World War II breaks out, Edith and Oskar Eberhardt move their family—their daughter, Marina; son-in-law, Franz; and their granddaughters—out of Berlin and into a small house in the quiet town of Blumental, near Switzerland. A member of Hitler’s cabinet, Oskar is gone most of the time, and Franz begins fighting in the war, so the women of the house are left to their quiet lives in the picturesque village.

But life in Blumental isn’t as idyllic as it appears. An egotistical Nazi captain terrorizes the citizens he’s assigned to protect. Neighbors spy on each other. Some mysteriously disappear. Marina has a lover who also has close ties to her family and the government. Thinking none of them share her hatred of the Reich, she joins a Protestant priest smuggling Jewish refugees over the nearby Swiss border. The latest “package” is two Polish girls who’ve lost the rest of their family, and against her better judgment, Marina finds she must hide them in the Eberhardt’s cellar. Everything is set to go smoothly until Oskar comes home with the news that the Führer will be visiting the area for a concert, and he will be making a house call on the Eberhardts.

Based on the author’s discoveries about her great-grandfather, this extraordinary debut, full of love, tragedy, and suspense, is a sensitive portrait of a family torn between doing their duty for their country and doing what’s right for their country, and especially for those they love.
  • Touchstone | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501147579 | 
  • February 2017
List Price $26.00
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Good at Heart includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Ursula Werner. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Set in the quiet town of Blumental in southern Germany during World War II, The Good at Heart tells the story of one family, the Eberhardts, and their complicated quest to do right by one another during a time of turmoil, confusion, and terror. Narrated from the perspective of multiple characters, including Edith, the matriarch of the family, and Rosie, her spirited five-year-old granddaughter—this story considers the complications of life for ordinary Germans living in a police state. The Good at Heart is partly a love story, partly a wartime thriller, and partly a meditation on good, evil, and the space between good and evil, where so many of the characters exist.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. The Good at Heart opens with a famous epigraph from The Diary of Anne Frank: “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. . . . if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that pe see more

About the Author

Ursula Werner
Photograph by Geoffrey Klineberg

Ursula Werner

Ursula Werner is a writer and attorney currently living in Washington, DC, with her family. Born in Germany and raised in South Florida, she has practiced law while continuing her creative writing, publishing two books of poetry, In the Silence of the Woodruff (2006) and Rapunzel Revisited (2010). The Good at Heart is her first novel.

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