Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Book Review and Author Interview: Triumph Over Destiny By Peladija Woodson-Diers


By: Peladija Woodson-Diers

Published: December 2, 2014

Publisher: Peladija Woodson-Diers


Sunday my review and author interview of TRIUMPH OVER DESTINY were featured in the Cedar Rapids Gazette's "Sunday Insights and Books" section. To see it there, click HERE. The following is my full review and interview with the author. She has written this to share the story of her mother, but also to make sure this part of our history is not forgotten. I am always amazed by the tenacity and courage of those who suffered so greatly during WWII. I hope you find this book as inspiring as I did.

Peladija grew up hearing stories of her parent’s childhoods growing up in Austria and Yugoslavia. Both of them had very different upbringings and destiny brought these two people together during the tragedies of WWII while they were both living in Germany. Peladija, born in America, relates growing up in America as much different from the stories her mother and sister tell of growing up during WWII. As an adult, Peladija realized her mother’s stories needed to be told to more than just to their family. Not because her mother’s story is unique to others who suffered during WWII, but because it is part of our history. The atrocities of war are felt far and wide and innocent victims are forever changed, no matter the age. How the war affected her family is tragic, horrifying and unimaginable. But, without the war, Peladija’s parents would have never met. Choices and destinies have created her family history and this story is one to be shared. Peladija is the author of TRIUMPH OVER DESTINY, but in it she is telling the stories from her mother’s perspective.

Peladija recorded her mother’s stories over the span of a few years and then compiled them into this book chronicling her mother’s life. In the book she tells of growing up in Austria, being ripped from her family at the young age of 15 to provide forced labor in Germany, her marriage to a German soldier, raising their two daughters, suffering tragedies unimaginable (including her husband’s death) while living in Germany, marrying a POW from Yugoslavia after the war was over, and eventually coming to America sponsored by a family in Oelwein, Iowa.

Many books have been written telling the horrors Hitler’s regime inflicted on the people of Europe. Knowing, as you are reading, that these things truly happened to innocent victims, someone like you and me, and realizing how out of control the cruelty became will give you a new perspective on WWII. 

The story begins in Austria and takes us to Germany when Karoline, Peladija’s mother is forcefully taken from her family by soldiers. They had no idea where she was being taken, if they would see her again, and what would happen to her. Karoline was actually one of the “lucky” ones if you could even say that, because she was placed in a restaurant in Germany. She was able to live in a small apartment with another young woman, was fed and cared for, even though the work was long and hard and she was treated as an outsider and disgraced. During her time working in the restaurant, she was eventually treated with respect and given more freedoms which led her to meet her future husband, Hinrich, a German soldier. Their romance was quick and survived Hinrich’s long deployments during the war. Eventually they were married and Karoline was free from working as a forced laborer. 

Karoline and Hinrich's Wedding - photo courtesy of author

Living on his parents’ farm, raising their two daughters, and being well cared for, helped her to forget some of the tragedies of war, but the numerous restrictions on travel, danger along the roads, and fear of bombs dropping on them at any moment kept their lives in constant fear.

Peladija’s mother had a vivid memory and was able to recall in great detail the stories of their lives during WWII. The stories are emotional, tragic and horrific. I don’t want to mention them here to take away the telling of Karoline’s story. I wondered how Peladija was able to write them knowing they happened to her mother, father, and sisters. Peladija stated all of them were difficult to hear and every time she worked on the book, there were tears coming down her face and she was constantly wiping tears off of her computer. It was a highly emotional journey for her with some stories being more difficult to write than others, but in her heart, she knew these stories needed to be told. Oftentimes, her children were in the room while she recorded these stories. She believes these stories and her mother’s values made her and her sisters some of the strongest-willed women she has ever met. She even jokes that it makes life pretty difficult for their husbands. But, she said, if you would have known my mom, you would have seen her as a mild mannered, reserved, and quiet woman. You never would have guessed the atrocities she suffered in her life because she was a woman who was blessed and always found something to be thankful for. She said prayers with her children every night, thanking God for the basics of health and family, because, as she told them, if you didn’t have that, you had nothing.

I find every time I read a book set during WWII, I learn something new about the history and affects the war had on innocent people. In this book, I learned how the POWs were left to practically fend for themselves in Germany once the war ended. Many of them were starving and homeless and which, unfortunately, caused many of them to turn to violence to get revenge against the Germans. Germans became victims of the tortured POWs and Peladija’s family suffered greatly at their hands even after they had been kind to so many of them. Even when the war was over, it was just as dangerous for people in Germany, just a different kind of danger. They weren’t watching the sky for bombs, but instead looking out for intruders to harm them or steal prized possessions, as Peladija stated. The war may have been over but atrocities happened for years after.

Peladija ends the book once her parents arrive in Oelwein, Iowa. The reader is left with many unanswered questions about their assimilation into American culture and their life here. When I asked Peladija some of my burning questions, she hesitated and then replied, I’m planning a sequel.  “Our life in America is really a separate story,” she stated. “Even though we were in America, life wasn’t easy. I’ve had many people ask and want to know more about our family’s story and I plan to write a sequel soon.”

If you enjoy reading true accounts of people as part of the history of our nation and world, I highly recommend reading TRIUMPH OVER DESTINY. 

Peladija Woodson-Diers, photo courtesy of author

Peladija Woodson-Diers lives in a small town in NE Iowa and is a practicing social worker. But knowing that her mother's stories needed to be told, she found herself writing her very first book. TRIUMPH OVER DESTINY is the true account of her mother's life. Peladija plans to write a sequel based on their family's life after arriving in America. For more on the author or her book, check out the website, You can also follow her on Facebook, HERE

To purchase a copy of TRIUMPH OVER DESTINY, click the photo below:

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of this book. This review is my honest opinion. I was compensated by The Gazette for writing this review and conducting the interview. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting 

1 comment:

Janelle Menzel said...

Peladija is so good at telling this story and sharing it at her book signings! I got a book and can't hardly put it down! It is good to have this view into the "ordinary" people during the war, and their extraordinary strength and lives.