The Vanishing Sky (Hardcover)
August 2020 Indie Next List
“In the waning months of WWII, as allied forces are closing in from both sides, the devastation of war has reached the Huber family as it struggles to stay intact. With an older son changed forever by the Eastern Front, a younger son heading out to the Western Front, and a husband growing increasingly nationalistic and senile, a mother keeps pushing forward with the hope of having her whole family back together under one roof. In this incredibly moving and personal look at the destruction of Germany that ultimately ended the war, Binder tackles a range of issues within countries and families. In the realm of historical fiction, The Vanishing Sky is a true standout.”
— Carl Kranz, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA
For readers of Warlight and The Invisible Bridge, an intimate, harrowing story about a family of German citizens during World War II.
Included in the New York Times Book Review's Summer Reading Guide for Historical Fiction
“There was no shelter without her sons.”
In 1945, as the war in Germany nears its violent end, the Huber family is not yet free of its dangers or its insidious demands. Etta, a mother from a small, rural town, has two sons serving their home country: her elder, Max, on the Eastern front, and her younger, Georg, at a school for Hitler Youth. When Max returns from the front, Etta quickly realizes that something is not right-he is thin, almost ghostly, and behaving very strangely. Etta strives to protect him from the Nazi rule, even as her husband, Josef, becomes more nationalistic and impervious to Max's condition. Meanwhile, miles away, her younger son Georg has taken his fate into his own hands, deserting his young class of battle-bound soldiers to set off on a long and perilous journey home.
The Vanishing Sky is a World War II novel as seen through a German lens, a story of the irreparable damage of war on the home front, and one family's participation-involuntary, unseen, or direct-in a dangerous regime. Drawing inspiration from her own father's time in the Hitler Youth, L. Annette Binder has crafted a spellbinding novel about the choices we make for country and for family.
About the Author
L. Annette Binder was born in Germany and immigrated to the U.S. as a small child. She holds degrees in classics and law from Harvard, an MA in comparative literature from the University of California at Berkeley, and an MFA from the Program in Writing at the University of California, Irvine. Her short fiction collection Rise received the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction. She lives in New Hampshire.
"The Vanishing Sky paints a haunting portrait of a nation slowly collapsing. The story is gripping, and the characters are fully realized, flawed individuals." - New York Journal of Books
"In her intimate and epic debut novel, L Annette Binder lifts the lid on one family’s darkest story to offer vital insight into daily life under the last days of the Third Reich. The Vanishing Sky is a heartrending and blazingly lucid depiction of Nazi Germany as not a simple monolith of evil but as an oppressive, fanatical political regime that was encountered, accommodated, rejected, and survived by ordinary people, people just like you and me." - Miriam Toews, author of WOMEN TALKING
"The challenge in humanizing the Western world’s most tortured history proves no match for Binder’s intellect, compassion, and unflinching gaze; one gets the feeling this writer, in the stunning precision of her painterly details, would prove virtuosic with any material she was handed to use. A hugely ambitious novel whose consummate, patient artistry is moving beyond measure." - Matthew Thomas, New York Times-bestselling author of WE ARE NOT OURSELVES
"L. Annette Binder’s The Vanishing Sky is so fiercely imagined, so wondrously conjured, that what you hold not only pulls you into its history but into a world of pure yearning, determination, struggle, and hope. This is a story—in all its rich layers—that dazzles, breaks your heart, clutches you, and gets you back up again. I’m grateful to have experienced it, and grateful to Binder for the gift she has given us." - Paul Yoon, author of THE MOUNTAIN
"[Binder] uses Etta Huber, a hausfrau in a rural village, as a means of feeling her way back into the past, channeling the anguish and uncertainty of the final months of the fighting." - New York Times Book Review
"A heartbreaking portrait of an ordinary family shattered by a war they didn’t want." - The Times
"An intimate tragedy that’s all the more powerful for refusing the ending we fervently hope for." - The Daily Mail
"At a moment when American readers uneasily watch our own leaders stoke ethnic and religious tensions — often to tragic ends — in a way that we have not quite seen before in our lifetimes, the Hubers’ story feels particularly revelatory. . . Binder is a deft writer with a gift for choosing vocabulary that elevates the observations of normal people into carefully rendered art. . . The Vanishing Sky tells a tragic story, but it also serves as a meditation on tragedy and the everyday cruelty by which tragedy is so often begotten." - The Washington Independent Review of Books
"The Vanishing Sky reveals the German home front as I've never seen it in fiction... Binder tells her story patiently, like an artist placing tiny pieces into a mosaic; this literary novel isn't one to race through. But I find it gripping, powerful, and a brave narrative, unsparing in its honesty." - Historical Novels Review
"A masterful story of war, horror, and love...Binder provides a family’s-eye view of the terror and trauma, offering readers a unique perspective on the war." - Kirkus Reviews
"A fresh take on the madness of war." - Publishers Weekly
"This stark accounting of the personal damage inflicted by war draws its power from its homey details, as one family’s life is blown apart." - Booklist
"L. Annette Binder’s sad, intimate first novel, The Vanishing Sky, conveys a sense of Germany at the tail end of World War II, as seen primarily through the experiences of one family from Heidenfeld, near the city of Würzburg. . . Georg, a pudgy, bookish youngster who’s ill-equipped for fighting...is the book’s Odysseus, his mother its Penelope. Binder creates a believable, lost world with Etta and Georg. The ending is inevitable, and we are left with an overriding—and poignant—sense of loss." - Bookpage
"An empathic, portrayal of the human cost of war, delivered as an inside view of a family living under the Nazi regime." - Sydney Morning Herald
"Eloquent, and painfully human." - Irish Examiner
"Heartwarming and exciting...this book along with movies such as Hitler’s SS, A Portrait of Evil, and JoJo Rabbit explain how the strands of hatred reached out and entrapped whole families in a web of evil." - Jerusalem Post
"The Vanishing Sky is a powerful look at the capacity for evil that humans are capable of. It is an account of the effect one resolute generation’s self-imposed “amnesia” can have on the next .. [T]here is not one false note. The Vanishing Sky is fully controlled storytelling that avoids cliché, even as its winter turns into spring, even as it recounts the final days of a war still being fought by those who barely understand why." - Anniston Star