The Imposter


Available on backorder


The Imposter is available for preorder. It will ship on or before its release date of January 16, 2024.

The Imposter by Johanna van Zanten

Johanna is one of the daughters of a migrant cobbler from the eastern backwoods of Pomerania, born in the German Empire of the 1880s. Aching for a life of accomplishment and respect, she resolves to escape her dad’s fate of early death, the stigma of his mixed Slavic-German heritage, and the poverty that followed him.

A headstrong girl, she refuses to be exploited as a housemaid for a wealthy family—the only choice for girls like her. She loses her job when the master of the house tries to rape her.

With nothing to lose, she accepts a job as the concession shop operator with the railroad. Her assignment is to travel with the construction crew across northern Germany. On the first day of work, she sets up shop (and home) in an empty passenger railcar and meets Hendrik, a Dutchman, and the construction superintendent. Head over heels, they marry when Johanna becomes pregnant.

It doesn’t take long before the first babies arrive and continue arriving: within three years, Johanna delivers five children, and the caboose becomes crowded. A railroad inspector drops in unexpectedly and bans the children from the construction site, so Johanna moves into the nearest town with the children.

Johanna, now married, hides her mixed Slavic ethnicity behind Hendrik’s Dutch last name, while massive, anti-Polish measures make life in the Empire difficult for Slavic people. When Germany joins Austria-Hungary in a new war—too close to Hendrik’s home country—he wants to return home to neutral Holland. When Germany sinks American vessels, he’s had enough and packs up his family in 1917 to move back home. The couple buys a farm with their savings in Hendrik’s hometown.

Then Johanna’s real test of loyalty starts when the Nazis invade.


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