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An extraordinary, emotionally intense novel spanning World War II Europe to 1960s New York City with an unsettling psychological edge, We Are Only Ghosts depicts not only the horrors of the death camps but the toll on those who survived—powered by a story of the unexpected, complicated connection between a Nazi officer and a young Jewish boy.
New York City, 1968: The customers at Café Marie don’t come just for the excellent coffee and pastries. They come for the sophisticated ambiance, and the illusion of being somewhere other than a bustling, exhausting city. Headwaiter Charles Ward helps create that illusion through impeccable service—unobtrusive, nearly invisible, yet always watchful.
It’s a skill Charles honed as a young Jewish boy in war-torn Europe, when avoiding attention might mean the difference between life and death. But even then, one man saw him all too clearly—a Nazi officer who was both his savior and tormentor.
At seventeen, Charles was deported to Auschwitz with his family. There he was singled out by Obersturmführer Berthold Werden, who hid him in his home. Their entanglement produced a tortured affection mixed with hatred that flares to life again, decades later, when Berthold walks into Café Marie.
Drawn back into Berthold’s orbit, Charles is forced to revisit the pain and the brief, undeniable pleasures of the life he once knew. And if he acts on his growing hunger for revenge, will he lose his only tether to the past—the only other witness to who he was and everything he endured—or find peace at last?
Jeffrey L. Richards is an author and playwright. Originally from Oklahoma, he moved to New York nearly three decades ago and began writing seriously while enrolled in New York University. He now lives in New Jersey with his rescue dog, Andi, and can be found online at JeffreyLRichards.com.
Advance Praise for Jeffrey L. Richards and We Are Only Ghosts
“I was mesmerized by this gorgeously written novel that explores the psychological cost of survival with unflinching honesty and unwavering compassion. A young survivor of the Holocaust who crosses borders, decades, and identities in an attempt to leave behind his horrific past learns he will never be whole again until he finds the courage to confront his ghosts. An astounding story that will linger in my mind and heart for years to come, We Are Only Ghosts will take you on a riveting journey through unimaginable loss and corrupted love toward its ultimate destination of healing and repair.” —Kim van Alkemade, New York Times Bestselling Author of Counting Lost Stars
“Profound, moving, and absolutely timely, We Are Only Ghosts shows how our identity determines destiny. Charles is gay, Czech, Jewish; as a teenager, he was ghettoized and subjected to the depravity of the Third Reich. In adulthood he discovers the courage to confront the ghosts who return to haunt him, including that of the boy he himself had once been. I’m still pondering the questions posed by this touching novel.” —William di Canzio, Author of Alec
“Told from the important and often overlooked perspective of a young gay man imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps, We Are Only Ghosts evocatively portrays how the things that happen to us, both tragic and beautiful, shape who we are, and how we have the power to choose who we become in spite of our suffering. This gripping testament to the strength of the human spirit will both haunt and inspire you.” —Ellen Marie Wiseman, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Lost Girls of Willowbrook