I finished this book last evening and really enjoyed it.
The author wrote his first novel, Once We Were Brothers, which is probably one of my very favorite fiction books about the Holocaust. It was an amazing book. I also read his second novel, Saving Sophie, which I enjoyed. This third novel was very good but his first is still my favorite so far.
Lena Scheinman Woodward is a Holocaust survivor from Chrzanow, Poland (pronounced Shah-nov). Her parents and little brother were killed by the Nazis when she was a young teenager. Her best friend, Karolina, was vivacious, charming, beautiful and spunky. Lena and she were cemented in their friendship and endured the trials of life in the Jewish ghetto as well as working in The Shop sewing outfits for the German armed forces. Both of them were forced, towards the end of WWII to Auschwitz, the largest of the concentration camps. Lena managed to escape. And survived.
The book opens with her in her 80s and requesting the help of a lawyer, Catherine Lockhart and her husband, private investigator Liam Taggart. She wants help in finding Karolina's twins. The baby girls were thrown from a moving train by Karolina and Lena as they were heading towards the concentration camp. They were about 3 months old at the time. Lena promised Karolina as she lay dying in a Polish farm field that she would one day find the twins. The twins were known as "our babies". Neither of the girls were married.
Lena tells her entire life story to Catharine....yet...there are unfinished parts of this story. There are many questions that must be answered....what is the truth...and what is not?? and why is Lena's son Arthur taking his own mother to court??
I really like historical fiction that is based during the Civil War and WW2. This book doesn't disappoint.
The character development, like in his other 2 novels, is exquisitely done. You feel like the characters are real and that you could have a conversation with them. Of course he brings back the lawyer and investigator team and we find out in this book that Catherine is pregnant with their first child. It makes for a lovely parallel to Lena's story.
The setting of course is also well developed. And just when I think I have "heard it all" regarding the atrocities of the Holocaust and the war, I discovered yet more information and history from that era. I found my self tearing up from some of the descriptions of life in Poland for the Jewish people at that time.
This novel is somewhat of a "coming of age" novel regarding Lena and Karolina. The hardships they endured and the things they did in order to survive that horrendous time in history really comes out in the way the author writes.
The really neat thing about this book is that once again, the author bases this on some one's actual story. Apparently, a woman named Fay came to see him when he was on tour promoting his first novel (Once We Were Brothers). The character "Lena" is fictional but she experiences much of what Fay experienced.
Fay also had a son but the author notes that he in no way resembles the fictional son of Lena whom the reader knows as Arthur. Also, the entire court scene is fictional.
The author actually went to Poland and Auschwitz to do research on this time period. The real person, Fay, is an actual survivor and really did escape from the death march out of Auschwitz. She also really worked as a seamstress for The Shop. The author followed her footsteps back to all the places she was in, during WWII. I love that he includes this information at the end of his novels.
In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 14 and older.
On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 9.