Review: Eli’s Promise by Ronald H. Balson

Title: Eli’s Promise by Ronald H. Balson
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical (’30s, 40’s, 60s), World War II, Fiction
Length: 342 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


A “fixer” in a Polish town during World War II, his betrayal of a Jewish family, and a search for justice 25 years later—by the winner of the National Jewish Book Award.

Eli’s Promise is a masterful work of historical fiction spanning three eras—Nazi-occupied Poland, the American Zone of post-war Germany, and Chicago at the height of the Vietnam War. Award-winning author Ronald H. Balson explores the human cost of war, the mixed blessings of survival, and the enduring strength of family bonds.

1939: Eli Rosen lives with his wife Esther and their young son in the Polish town of Lublin, where his family owns a construction company. As a consequence of the Nazi occupation, Eli’s company is Aryanized, appropriated and transferred to Maximilian Poleski—an unprincipled profiteer who peddles favors to Lublin’s subjugated residents. An uneasy alliance is formed; Poleski will keep the Rosen family safe if Eli will manage the business. Will Poleski honor his promise or will their relationship end in betrayal and tragedy?

1946: Eli resides with his son in a displaced persons camp in Allied-occupied Germany hoping for a visa to America. His wife has been missing since the war. One man is sneaking around the camps selling illegal visas; might he know what has happened to her?

1965: Eli rents a room in Albany Park, Chicago. He is on a mission. With patience, cunning, and relentless focus, he navigates unfamiliar streets and dangerous political backrooms, searching for the truth. Powerful and emotional, Ronald H. Balson’s Eli’s Promise is a rich, rewarding novel of World War II and a husband’s quest for justice.


Eli’s Promise by Ronald H. Balson is a poignant novel that takes place during three distinct time periods.

In 1939, Eli Rosen and his family are happy and prosperous. Eli works with his father Jakob in the family business. His wife Esther is a nurse who works in a local hospital. They are very proud of their young son Izaak. But trouble is on the horizon as Adolf Hitler begins his invasion of Poland. Eli rather naively believes Hitler’s troops will never reach their town, but Esther is correct in her assumption that it is only a matter of time before the Nazis arrive. They watch with shock and dismay as the Nazis systematically target the Jewish community and force them into work camps and ghettos. With their business seized by the Nazis, Eli and his father have no choice but to cede control to the Germans and Maximilian Poleski. Eli pays Max to keep Jakob, Esther and Izaak safe, but the opportunistic profiteer betrays the Rosens in the worst possible way.

After the war has ended, Eli and Izaak live in an American run displacement camp.  Eli and his son are anxiously awaiting a visa so they can begin their life anew, but the emigration process is plagued by quotas in most countries. He is working with camp leaders  to expand housing when he hears that someone is selling visas on the black market. The description of the man who is illegally selling the visas leads Eli to believe Max is behind the scam. Will he and the others locate Max who has answers that Eli has desperately been searching for?

In the mid 1960s, Eli is living in Chicago just as the Vietnam War is just beginning to ramp up. His landlady Ruth Gold and her daughter Mimi are extremely curious about their newest tenant and wildly speculate about his job. Mimi and Eli are on friendly terms and when he needs assistance with a possible corruption scandal, he enlists her aid. Will they succeed in their plan to bring down a lucrative enterprise?

With chapters seamlessly alternating between the various time periods, Eli’s Promise is an engrossing novel. The Nazi atrocities against the Jewish citizens in Poland are absolutely heartrending. The aftermath of the war is equally difficult as the Jewish survivors struggle to find new homes amidst harsh living conditions. Eli’s plight is heartbreaking but he remains steadfast in his quest for justice. Ronald H. Balson brings this historically accurate novel to a very satisfying conclusion.

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Filed under Eli's Promise, Fiction, Historical, Historical (30s), Historical (40s), Historical (60s), Rated B, Review, Ronald H Balson, St Martin's Press

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