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WWII Takes Center Stage in 2 New Novels From Westchester Writers

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From Peenemünde to Cape Canaveral, and Beyond

By Werner Hengst

This posthumously published memoir details a variety of the author’s personal recollections, from his earliest memories growing up in Germany during WWII (Hengst’s father did rocket research with Wernher von Braun) to his adult life in Somers and the school he and wife Betty founded in Yorktown in 1972, Our Montessori School. The wonder with which Werner examines the world around him and his sensitivity to nature’s beauty, even through fateful times in Nazi Germany, enlivens what might otherwise be a dull personal memoir.

The book smartly interweaves personal experience and family history with broader historical observations of early and mid-20th-century moments that may seem foreign to some readers. Werner’s observations of segregation when he arrived in the U.S. were particularly compelling, almost forcing the reader to consider the coexistence of personal and political history in a unique way.

430 pages (hrd), $37.20

The Fifth Column

By Andrew Gross

In his latest novel, bestselling author Andrew Gross expertly takes the reader back in time, weaving real historical details into an engrossing fictional plot that is his stock-in-trade. The story centers around Charlie, a Jewish man living in New York during World War II. Not your typical one-dimensional protagonist, Charlie is a man with a past who uncovers part of the “Fifth Column,” a term used to describe an insurgence from inside a country being attacked from all sides.

With complex characters and minute-to-minute suspense, Purchase resident Gross keeps readers on their toes in a novel you cannot wait to sit down and tear through. Westchester plays a notable role in the plot, which is sure to be of interest to local readers, but we won’t share the details, lest we spawn spoilers. Armed with a variety of well-researched historical references, readers are likely to feel as though they are uncovering clues alongside Charlie. The Fifth Column is both dramatic and thrilling, bolstered by many heartwarming moments. It belongs on everyone’s must-read list — especially if you’re a Westchesterite with a yen for adventure.

336 pages (hrd), Minotaur Books, $28.99