Author: Sonja Herbert
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc.
Received: Publisher for Book Tour (eBook)
The only life Sonja has ever known was on the road. Now she must choose between the carnival and her convictions, between her family and her faith. This beautifully written memoir of growing up in post-war Germany and meeting the Mormon missionaries will remind you of how much God loves each one of us and how his power can make anything possible.
I was approached a few weeks ago to join the Carnival Girl tour directly from Cedar Fort’s publicist. The moment it was mentioned that it was post Word War II, I knew I wanted to give it a shot. After all, I am completely fascinated by that era. I wasn’t entirely familiar with the carnival life but mixing the two concepts, well, I couldn’t pass up the chance to read Carnival Girl.
Sonja Herbert is the second daughter of six children. The first, Carmen, was a miracle baby of sorts; born entirely way too early and without the resources right after the war to keep her thriving, it was truly a miracle that she survived at all.
I can only imagine that Carmen was the straw in a series of issues that Mutti and her husband, Vati, seemed to have. These issues would become more apparent as the novel progresses. Sonja’s parents had a series of pregnancy losses prior to Carmen and then Carmen’s delivery brought a series of stresses. It wasn’t for certain Carmen would even survive and it was all on Mutti to keep her going. Mutti was very stressed, as one could only imagine, raising six children in a small caravan and never having a moment to herself. I only have 2 children and although our home is small, its definitely no caravan and there are days when even I feel like I am going to go a little nutty if I don’t have a moment to myself. Although Mutti did and said some selfish things in Carnival Girl, she is an incredibly likable person and it is really easy to understand where she was coming from and why she said and/or did certain things. I certainly do not blame her. She’s a hero for raising six children full time in a cramped caravan and also helping her husband run a carnival for as long as she did.
Sonja came along, healthy as an ox, and soon to be followed by Josefa. When Mutti became pregnant with Franz, the first boy, Mutti was incredibly sick and wasn’t sure SHE would survive the pregnancy. Overwhelmed as it was, and too sick to care for the children, at age 3 Sonja and her sisters were sent to an orphanage to live until Mutti’s outcome was determined.
Sonja’s brief stay in a 1940′s orphanage in Germany is just one of the many well-written stories within this memoir. What I truly enjoyed about Carnival Girl is that each chapter could stand alone. Although they are in chronological order, they are each their own story. One of my favorite stories within Carnival Girl was when Sonja’s family bought a bunch of chicks to raise for eggs. (Can you imagine raising chickens in a caravan?) I can totally relate as I have chicks of my own and I absolutely loved the humorous twist in their chicken raising experience. (But, it does have some tearful moments!)
I wasn’t entirely sure, though, how I would enjoy reading a book about the growing development of Herbert’s faith, as anything overly religious makes me a bit uncomfortable. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t just a book on faith. I would say it was more about growing up in the carnival circuit but, really, it could be seen in a variety of different ways. Carnival Girl was the perfect mix of an historical memoir and the journey to find her faith. So, if you find religious texts uncomfortable like I do, then you should not have any issues reading this brilliantly written memoir. However, if you are a spiritual person, you will enjoy the journey Sonja took and how she had the courage (even at such a young age) to stand up for what she believed in.
I found Carnival Girl an enjoyable and engaging read. Sonja Herbert is definitely a master story teller and I look forward to hearing more stories about her incredibly interesting life. In fact, I really want to read her mother’s biography that Sonja penned, Walk on a Wire. The story is about her Mutti and what it was like to grow up half Jewish in the middle of one of the biggest wars of our time, World War II.
Carnival Girl is the type of story that doesn’t leave you the moment you close the book. You’ll find yourself wondering, relishing, and reliving each story. When I finished the last page, I immediately emailed the author to ask her more questions. I really couldn’t get enough!
Recommendation: Library (if you’re skeptical) but you’ll most likely end up buying it.