This book is a methodical telling of a village's struggle with redemption and its attempts to come to terms with only part of its sordid past. Poland's communist history starts out as the primary backdrop of this murder mystery. However, the murder of one slowly becomes secondary to the old system's silent murder of spirit and morale in the community. Finally, the old system, now replaced, becomes an inconsequential source of reconciliation compared to the disappearance of 80% of the village's population at the start of WWII.
This is a hopeful story, for a broader community than the fictional Poles of the village. Mr. Powers clearly understands that there are victims at every level of societal horror, and that no amount of guilt or ingorance can move a community into salvation. Purposeful recongition of the roles of community attitudes and actions are at the heart of the redemption of individuals.
The story-telling is marvelous and rich. The characters are real and human -- none of them pure evil, but all taking part in the history of a village, and its country. Furthermore, all of the characters are Polish. There is a distinct lack of Americans in the novel, and a distinct lack of Americanisms in the book as a whole, in characters, the plot, the atmosphere, or the pacing. Settling into this novel is a joy, reminiscent of the pace of life, not the thrilling romantic life of an American dream world.
This is a story worth reading for the next several decades.