In this multilayered historical novel that explores family secrets and hidden identities, “Woods skillfully captures the disorienting mixture of heady freedom and mounting fear characterizing 1930s Berlin, and the political and gender issues she raises add contemporary relevancy” (Publishers Weekly).
Berlin, 1931: Sisters raised in a Catholic orphanage, Berni and Grete Metzger are each other's whole world. That is, until life propels them to opposite sides of seedy, splendid, and violent Weimar Berlin. Berni becomes a cigarette girl, a denizen of the cabaret scene alongside her transgender best friend, who is considering a risky gender reassignment surgery. Meanwhile Grete is hired as a maid to a Nazi family, and begins to form a complicated bond with their son. As Germany barrels toward the Third Reich and ruin, one of the sisters must make a devastating choice.
South Carolina, 1970: With the recent death of her father, Janeen Moore yearns to know more about her family history, especially the closely guarded story of her mother's youth in Germany. One day she intercepts a letter intended for her mother: a confession written by a German woman, a plea for forgiveness. What role does Janeen's mother play in this story, and why does she seem so distressed by recent news that a former SS officer has resurfaced in America?
Fräulein M. abounds with hidden identities and family secrets. With its multilayered exploration of family ties, hard choices, and the weight of history in our lives, the novel shines light on a brilliant new voice.
Caroline Woods has been published in Slice Magazine (which nominated her for a Pushcart Prize), LEMON, 236, BU Creative Writing's Literary Journal, and The Scene. She has taught fiction writing and composition at Boston University and the Boston Conservatory, and has an MFA in Creative Writing from BU. She is the author of Fraulein M. and The Cigarette Girl. Caroline lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband and daughter.
"Woods skillfully captures the disorienting mixture of heady freedom and mounting fear characterizing 1930s Berlin, and the political and gender issues she raises add contemporary relevancy.”
– Publishers Weekly
"Debut novelist Woods is a skilled constructor of scenes that propel readers forward and lay bare the difficulties of living in complicated times ... .Readers will be moved by the Metzger sisters."
“Anyone looking for a great read. This debut novel, set in war-torn Berlin, is full of family secrets that make for a riveting can't-put-down read. Everyone's going to be talking about this one.”
– The Awesome News
"An unsettling lens into the Nazis’ tightening grasp and the way it closes around two inseparable sisters growing up in a Catholic orphanage. ... What’s engaging about the book beyond its timeless moral dilemmas (how far we’ll go to save ourselves) is its lively, well-drawn cast of characters."
"Caroline Woods shows tremendous skill in portraying these characters. It is a big story ingeniously conceived and intimately told, full of feeling and revealing details...a sheer pleasure to read."
– Ha Jin, National Book Award and PEN/Faulkner award winning author of Waiting and War Trash
"Caroline Woods creates a moving and vivid portrait of two orphaned sisters in 1930s Berlin. Utterly transporting."
– Patricia Park, author of Re Jane
"This evocative tale, finely told, reminds us of the fragility of family bonds and the compromises made in the name of survival. Readers will be moved by the conflicts in ideology, loyalty, and trust that Woods brings to life in these pages."
– Daphne Kalotay, national and international bestselling author of Russian Winter and Sight Reading