I'd never read a book about the West/East Germany split. Forty Autumns filled that knowledge gap for me. What a heartbreaking, yet fascinating part of human history. The ideology behind walling in your citizens, forbidding contact with the outside world, telling half-starving citizens that they have all they need and should be grateful to the government for it, brainwashing them from the cradle to believe westerners and consumerism (i.e. modernization) are evil. It's amazing that such a thing could happen in a modern world, but look no further than North Korea for a current example of the same thing (I recommend Nothing to Envy for a great introduction.). Forty Autumns tells the story of a family divided. The author, who, coincidentally, was stationed in East Germany in the 1980s, tells the story of her mother's escape from East Germany as a young woman and her eventual emigration to the U.S. but also the stories of the large family she left behind. A very good story. The writing here is what I'd call "serviceable"--nothing wrong with it, but it doesn't engage the reader, it only gives the story. At times that felt tedious, but the story always carried me along. My rating: 3.5 stars.