The Things We Cannot Say [Book Review]

October 24, 2019

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

The Things We Cannot Say review

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Poland, WW11, Love Story, Family Life

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

From the age of nine, Alina has been in love with her best friend Tomasz. At fifteen and engaged to Tomasz, Alina and her neighbors discount the rumors of Nazi soldiers at the Polish border, and she spends her time dreaming of her wedding. Tomasz is in college in Warsaw when the Nazis occupy Poland. While Alina and Tomasz briefly lose touch, Alina and her family’s efforts are focused on survival. In the present-day timeline, Alina is in a convalescent home in the U. S. recovering from a stroke and convincing her granddaughter that she must make a trip to Poland in her place and visit certain sites. The granddaughter, Alice, is leading a stressful life with two special needs children and an unsatisfactory marriage, but she feels compelled to honor her grandmother’s request. In dual timelines, Alice visits her grandmother, makes plans to visit Poland, and actually makes the trip, while the WW11 timeline involving Alina and Tomasz progresses. Readers find out what eventually happens to Alina and Tomasz as Alice meets the Polish family and unravels Alina’s most closely guarded secrets.

Amazon Rating: 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

Engaging…memorable…page-turning…and emotional!

Lots to Love: Even though the histfic aspect of The Things We Cannot Say is interesting, the love story is compelling and heartbreaking, the grandmother/granddaughter relationship is heartfelt, and the theme of reconciliation is memorable.

Themes: In addition to reconciliation, other important themes include secrets, determination, found family, risk-taking, survival, making difficult choices, caring for children with differing abilities, and sacrifice.

Emotional: Without being manipulative, the story’s end brought me to tears. I think it was the theme of sacrifice that touched me the most. Closely followed by the trajectory of the Alina/Tomasz love story. It was one of the more emotional stories I’ve read this year.

Discussion for Book Club: I would like to be in a book club with readers who could give first-hand feedback about the passages that deal with nonverbal autism. I did learn some things even though it felt a little like an info dump. Next, I’d like to explore my conflicting feelings about the prologue and how it relates to the end of the story. I can’t say more about this because of spoilers, but it’s definitely something I’d like to discuss at book club (or in comments when you read the story)! Last, the narrative offers pointed feminist advice….I’m not sure women still need these reminders in 2019. Or do we? These discussion topics fall into the category of personal preference and do not affect my recommendation, but they did affect my star rating.

Content warning: the usual WW11 hardships (no concentration camp)

Recommended: If you’re looking for a compelling and emotional read and memorable characters, this title is for you! I recommend The Things We Cannot Say for fans of well-written histfic, for readers who love complicated family stories, for those who appreciate touching themes and page-turning stories, and for book clubs. Thanks, Linda (you know who you are!) for the rec! I know you loved it! It was emotional and heartfelt for sure, and I appreciated the read!

My Rating:  4.5 Stars

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The Things We Cannot Say

The Things We Cannot Say Information (#affiliatelink)

This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on

Meet the Author, Kelly Rimmer

Kelly Rimmer

Kelly Rimmer is the USA Today best selling author of contemporary and historical fiction novels including Me Without You, The Secret Daughter, and her most recent release, The Things We Cannot Say. She is also the author of the contemporary romance series, Start Up in the City. Kelly lives in rural Australia with her family.

For further information about Kelly’s books, and to subscribe to her mailing list, visit


Is The Things We Cannot Say on your TBR or have you read it?

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  1. I have a hit and miss history with historical fiction, either love it or it’s boring. This sounds good, but maybe too romantic for my taste. Thanks for the review!

  2. AHHHHHHH!! I ABDOLUTELY ADORE when GRANDPARENTS/GRANDCHILDREN relationships are explored in a story! And this being a WW novel makes the promise all the more stronger and emotional!

    Your review has DEFINITELY persuaded me to add this one to my tbr! ❤️❤️😍😍 LOVED IT, as always, Carol! 😍😍💕💕😘😘🥰

  3. What a lovely review, Carol. I love the granddaughter/grandmother story arc. I definitely need to get this on my TBR&R in the new year.

    • I think they came to that understanding but I can’t remember now how it played out exactly…I’d need to get the book from the library and reread the ending! It was all so emotional!

  4. I chose this book for our book club in Tucson. I connected with the characters and really cared about them. The Holocaust history has Poland being very cooperative with the Nazis. This gave those tropes some balance and encouraged me to find out more about the Polish resistance. We are discussing this book in February. I hope my fellow clubbers find it as engaging as I do.

    • I’m happy you enjoyed it! I think there’s still a lot to learn about the resistance movement! I hope you have a fabulous book club discussion Erica! Thanks for commenting!

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