In the spirit of Susan Faludi's In the Darkroom and Edmund de Waal's Hare with the Amber Eyes comes a story of one family and two vastly different experiences during World War II, questioning our notions of victim and perpetrator and the lasting effects of war and trauma through the generations of one family.
In March 1942, Mieke Eerken's father was a ten-year-old boy living in the Dutch East Indies. When the Japanese invade the island he was interned, like a hundred thousand other Dutch civilians, in a concentration camp where he is forced to do hard labor for three years. His life is essentially saved by the terrible events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which caused the Japanese to surrender, setting him and his family free into a nation that plunged immediately into civil war. Meanwhile, across the globe police in the Netherlands carry a crying five-year-old girl out of her home at war’s end, abandoned and ostracized as a daughter of Nazi sympathizers. This was Mieke's mother. It was the post-war period of reckoning, what they referred to in Holland as the so-called “hatchet day,” where Nazi collaborators were beaten in the streets and rounded up and sent to the same concentration camps where the country's Jews had recently been imprisoned. Many years later, Mieke's parents meet and move to California, where she and her siblings are born. But though her parents are far from their families and the events of the past, the effects of the war are still felt in their daily lives and in the lives of their children.
All Ships Follow Me moves from Indonesia to the Netherlands to the United States, as Mieke recounts her parents' stories and journeys with them to the important places of their childhood, in an attempt to understand their experiences on two different “sides” of the war, to bring to light events and experiences often overlooked in WWII histories. All Ships Follow Me is a deeply personal, sweeping saga of the wounds of war and the way trauma is often inherited through generations.