Chris Bohjalian is the author of 11 previous novels, and in every effort he has tackled serious ethical, moral and social issues that challenge his characters in different ways. Two of his prior works --- PAST THE BLEACHERS and MIDWIVES --- were turned into successful made-for-TV movies. His latest, SKELETONS AT THE FEAST, was inspired in part by an actual diary a friend asked Bohjalian to read in 1998; it had been kept by his friend’s East Prussian grandmother from 1920 to 1945.
Taking place during the final six months of World War II, SKELETONS AT THE FEAST follows the evacuation of the Emmerich family from their estate in East Prussia to points west of Berlin, Germany. These aristocrats must make the tough decision of abandoning an estate their family has owned for generations in an effort to stay well ahead of the fast-approaching Soviet army. Tales of atrocities to which the Soviet army has subjected their prisoners are enough to force the Emmerichs to act quickly and begin their hasty retreat west.
Rolf Emmerich, the father of this clan, is called into battle by the German army along with his two eldest sons, and they are not able to accompany the rest of their family on their harrowing trek. This leaves his wife, “Mutti” (as she is called by her loved ones), and her children, Anna and Theo, to travel on their own, following others from their area who are also embarking on a journey west. Joining the Emmerichs is Callum Finella, a 20-year-old Scottish POW who had been captured hours before the Normandy invasion and forced into labor on the Emmerichs’ estate. Complicating matters is the fact that Callum must hide beneath sacks of grain on the Emmerichs’ wagon so as to not be seen by German forces they may encounter in the area. Additionally, Callum and 18-year-old Anna have secretly fallen in love.
Shortly into their trek, the group meets “Manfred,” a 26-year-old German officer. Unbeknownst to the Emmerichs and Callum, “Manfred” is actually Ur