Trabant Photo: Stefan Mai

Out of the Cold War comes a powerful and inspiring true story…

Forty Autumns Book Cover


“[A] meticulous and compassionate family memoir… Charting the twists and turns of politics in communist East Germany over more than four decades, it shows how currents of repression and reform affected individual lives.”
— Chicago Tribune

“Willner’s epic memoir traverses three generations of mothers, recounting the tragedy, estrangement, and overwhelming courage of a family torn apart… Her interrogative and unabashed voice explores the painful intersection of national duty and familial responsibilities… A thrilling and relevant read for historians and casual readers alike.”
— Publishers Weekly

“Thoughtful and informative, Willner’s book … celebrates the enduring resilience of the human spirit. A poignant and engrossing, occasionally harrowing, family memoir.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“Some of her own adventures round out the pages of Forty Autumns, but mostly this is the story of a much quieter and more quotidian kind of bravery, although no less moving… Clashes abound in Forty Autumns, which succeeds at being both a poignant parable of hope and, at times, a harrowing ghost story.”
— Christian Science Monitor

“A page-turner. Plenty of background—both heartbreaking (would-be escapees shot at the wall) and fascinating (President Kennedy's Berlin speech, preceded by his peeking over the wall)—is woven neatly in. A multigenerational tale that brings the Cold War and Iron Curtain to tragic, memorable life.”
— Booklist

“Documents the impact caused by fences, barbed wire and walls. Revisits the risk of nuclear war.”
— Portland Book Review

“A family frozen in time…”
— The Guardian

“An excellent and intriguing account of the impact of the Cold War on families and their lives on either side of the Berlin Wall.”
— Library Journal, Starred Review

“Describes… with tremendous compassion and clarity. Heart-wrenching as much as it is life-affirming. It makes us marvel at [the family’s] resilience and strength.”
— The Jewish Chronicle

“Engrossing, poignant, moving…”
— Choice Magazine (Hardback Book-of-the-Month November 2016)

“The Iron Curtain rises again in Forty Autumns…”
— StarTribune

“Even if you well know the story of the East German sequester, you will be drawn to this family story of living through the worst of times.”
— Manhattan Book Review (5 Star Review)

“…shares the poignant story of their time divided, its impact, and finally, their joyous reunion.”
— Bustle

“…incredibly well-written, and important, a testament to humanity and courage.”
— Lithub

Forty Autumns is both an informative and timely read. In this increasingly tumultuous modern era when borders, both theoretical and physical, have once again become the front lines of critical issues such as immigration reform, pervasive prejudice and terrorism, stories like Willner’s are especially important. They serve as powerful reminders not only of our capacity for evil, but also of our will to endure even under seemingly insurmountable circumstances.”
— BookReporter

“…Drawing on a wide range of sources including interviews with family members, memoirs, letters, archives, trips to relevant locations and historical records, [Forty Autumns] is a moving account of one family’s life under tyranny… Willner’s sensitive and well-written account causes us to reflect on what is really important to us and how we would react in a similar situation.”
— BookPage

“Hard to put down. A riveting account of the tensions and heartbreak of the Cold War and of a divided Berlin and Germany.  Through the lens of her own unique family story, Nina Willner tells us what it was like to live under, and escape from, a brutal regime. That she served as an intelligence officer conducting missions in East Berlin (at the same time I commanded U.S. Forces in Berlin) adds suspense and provides a rare perspective, given her familial ties. Brings back many memories and offers a caution about today’s increasingly worrisome times. A definite must read.”
—LTGen Thomas Griffin, USA (Ret.)