A Mas­ter Plan for Res­cue: A Novel

  • Review
By – July 1, 2015

Read­ers’ heart­strings will tug for young Jack, the unsung hero in Janis Cooke Newman’s new his­tor­i­cal nov­el, A Mas­ter Plan For Res­cue. Cri­sis pre­vails through­out the story’s back­drop, begin­ning with the bomb­ing of Pearl Har­bor, trig­ger­ing feel­ings of both anx­i­ety and insta­bil­i­ty among Manhattan’s diverse immi­grant pop­u­la­tion. New­man por­trays her many char­ac­ters, whether of Irish, Ital­ian, Ger­man, or Jew­ish descent, as over­whelm­ing­ly sup­port­ive of the Unit­ed States’ involve­ment in the war. While Jack, a 12-year old boy, also wants to see the Nazis defeat­ed, he can­not sep­a­rate the exter­nal strug­gle from his per­son­al tragedy. The untime­ly death of his father, his idol, a man larg­er to him than life itself, rocks his young and inno­cent being, forc­ing him to hold on for dear life to what he holds sacred and real: a Code-O-Graph, the last gift Jack received from his father, which would become the tool that pos­sessed the pow­er to bring him back.”

The age of the sil­ver­tone radio with pro­grams like the Lone Ranger, Super­man, and Cap­tain Amer­i­ca cap­tured the imag­i­na­tions of young peo­ple in the ear­ly 1940s. For Jack, in par­tic­u­lar, it enabled him to fan­ta­size, dream, and imag­ine a solu­tion to his father’s sud­den dis­ap­pear­ance: the only log­i­cal” expla­na­tion must be that his father was cap­tured by Nazis and that the device last giv­en to him by his father will be the tool that will lead to his father’s recovery.

Intro­duced tan­gen­tial­ly at first, Jack’s vision dete­ri­o­rates short­ly before his father’s death. His father had active­ly sought a cure and found a doc­tor to fit Jack with glass­es, though Jack’s near and far vision both remained impaired. With this sup­posed dis­abil­i­ty, Jack devel­ops new capa­bil­i­ties, learn­ing to rely on his instincts and intu­ition. This adven­ture is told through Jack’s per­cep­tion, often leav­ing the read­er to ques­tion what is real and what may result from the dis­tor­tion of an imag­i­na­tive lens.

New­man tells the sto­ry in such a way that the read­er feels part of the expe­ri­ence. One can almost imag­ine lying on the floor, head propped up on one’s fore­arms, lis­ten­ing to adven­tures of the Lone Ranger, or rid­ing the sub­way with Jack from Dyck­man Street to the Low­er East Side. Her char­ac­ters are col­or­ful and dynam­ic, each expe­ri­enc­ing his or her own adver­si­ty. Yet, per­haps intend­ed by New­man, the two char­ac­ters that lead and become the unsung heroes are young Jack and Jakob, a sur­vivor of Nazi Ger­many whom Jack ini­tial­ly sus­pects as a Nazi because he speaks German.

Through their friend­ship and col­lab­o­ra­tion, they man­age to car­ry out the unimag­in­able, a res­cue of 23 Ger­man-Jew­ish refugee chil­dren. Is this plan an exten­sion of Jack’s fan­tasies, aid­ed and abet­ted by Jakob’s need for clo­sure? Or is it staged in real time, actu­al­ly tran­spir­ing? New­man mas­ter­ful­ly keeps the read­er guess­ing and ques­tion­ing what might be real or fan­tas­tic, always through Jack’s eyes.

This adven­ture sto­ry inte­grates many themes coher­ent­ly and suc­cess­ful­ly and makes the read­er want more. Read­ers of his­tor­i­cal fic­tion, Holo­caust-peri­od books, com­ing-of-age sto­ries and with an inter­est in New York’s rich immi­grant cul­ture dur­ing World War II will devour this book.

Relat­ed Content:

Read Janis Cooke New­man’s Vis­it­ing Scribe Posts

Why I Write His­tor­i­cal Fiction

Fic­tion Not Facts

My Top Five (Recent) His­tor­i­cal Novels

Dr. Julie Stern Joseph has been edu­cat­ing Jew­ish high school stu­dents and adults for over 15 years. She spent five years study­ing Tal­mud and Jew­ish Law, earned an MA in Medieval Jew­ish his­to­ry from NYU, and holds a doc­tor­ate in Jew­ish Edu­ca­tion from Yeshi­va University.

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