Piero degli Antoni, an award-winning Italian thriller author, brings readers an engrossing novel about the Holocaust which raises serious ethical questions. It begins in present-day New York as an elderly couple sits down for a simple breakfast at a table set for ten. Eight of the chairs are empty. The scene then shifts to Auschwitz in the spring of 1944. Some prisoners have successfully escaped, so ten others have been rounded up for execution. At the last minute, the commandant cancels the execution because he needs laborers. Only one inmate will be killed, but the group must decide which one. Locked in an empty laundry room with nothing but a pencil and paper, they must choose one member of the group. If they fail, all will die. The discussions reveal horror, secrets, and betrayal as well as love and humanity. The author has readers turning the pages as they await the outcome. The ending will surprise them. This is an excellent book for both teens and adults who would like to experience the world of a camp inmate to better understand the Holocaust. It provides meaty discussion topics for book groups as well. The issues of redemption, forgiveness, and justice are only the beginning.
Block 11: A Novel
Barbara M. Bibel is a librarian at the Oakland Public Library in Oakland, CA; and at Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley, CA.
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