About the book:
Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Auschwitz. Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks.
As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They mean to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.
Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her home. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.
But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families—so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.
Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.
When a Polish man saves a young German girl from a train explosion that he caused, neither could ever anticipate the life experiences that await them. But, Jakób brings Gretl home and offers her protection and safety for as long as he can. When the day comes where he realizes he can no longer safely look after her, Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa and a family anxious to adopt a little girl.
Historically, World War 2 is one of my favorite literary subjects. The experiences both in Europe and the Pacific during that time fascinate me. The perspective here was different and amazing. I had never heard of German war orphans being sent to South Africa for adoption. So Gretl's perspective as a Jewish girl in a Protestant country offered a contrast. Jakób's view from the Polish aspect offered a new perspective as well.
While I didn't completely love the writing style, I did love the story. It was at once compelling and heartbreaking and yet touched me in a way that stayed with me for days afterwards.
Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can purchase your own copy here.
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