Book Review: Only the Beautiful by Susan Meissner


Title: Only the Beautiful

By: Susan Meissner

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 400

Release Date: April 18th, 2023

Publisher: Berkley

Rating: ★★★★★


Summary from Goodreads:

A heartrending story about a young mother’s fight to keep her daughter, and the winds of fortune that tear them apart by the New York Times bestselling author of The Nature of Fragile Things and The Last Year of the War.

California, 1938—When she loses her parents in an accident, sixteen-year-old Rosanne is taken in by the owners of the vineyard where she has lived her whole life as the vinedresser’s daughter. She moves into Celine and Truman Calvert’s spacious house with a secret, however—Rosie sees colors when she hears sound. She promised her mother she’d never reveal her little-understood ability to anyone, but the weight of her isolation and grief prove too much for her. Driven by her loneliness she not only breaks the vow to her mother, but in a desperate moment lets down her guard and ends up pregnant. Banished by the Calverts, Rosanne believes she is bound for a home for unwed mothers, and having lost her family she treasures her pregnancy as the chance for a future one. But she soon finds out she is not going to a home of any kind, but to a place far worse than anything she could have imagined.

Austria, 1947—After witnessing firsthand Adolf Hitler’s brutal pursuit of hereditary purity—especially with regard to “different children”—Helen Calvert, Truman's sister, is ready to return to America for good. But when she arrives at her brother’s peaceful vineyard after decades working abroad, she is shocked to learn what really happened nine years earlier to the vinedresser’s daughter, a girl whom Helen had long ago befriended. In her determination to find Rosanne, Helen discovers that while the war had been won in Europe, there are still terrifying battles to be fought at home.


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There are not many reads that invoke a true emotion from me, but I'm bawling.

The layers of this story are beautiful, although heartbreaking. From the moment I dove into these pages, I was hooked on Roseanna's story. At a young age she was orphaned, left alone with a family that would take advantage of her in more ways than one. When they found out she was pregnant, they abandoned her in a so called institute where horrific procedures were performed all in the name of eugenics. 

Stories like this hit close to home for me. My children all have autism of various forms, and during these times they would have been considered less than human and would have normally ended up in places just like what was described in this story. It makes my heart break.

Although most of this story digs deep down into my soul, the ending was beautiful and full worth the wait. My emotions overcame me and bawled my eyes out, leaving my husband perplexed in bed next to me.

This has to be one of my favorite reads this year. Its story of pain and suffering, but also strength and joy. It all comes together in a wonderful way. Worth every minute of this read. 

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review. 

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