This intriguing fact-based novel presents a dual narration. An Israeli girl, Nessya, reacts to her grandmother’s experiences in war-torn Hungary by reading a narrative prepared by the grandmother based partly on family letters never sent for fear of the contents falling into Nazi hands. These letters are also read by Nessya.
In 1944, the young Miri Eneman, along with her parents and three older sisters, attempts to flee the persecution of her community’s Jews, already confined to a ghetto. The father, Naftuli, is the story’s hero. His exceptional foresight allows him to see that doing nothing, the stance of his Jewish neighbors, is to end up dead. Carefully and stealthily, he arranges for false documents as well as well-compensated assistance from friendly gentiles. The family members escape the ghetto and make their way to Budapest, where it seems that they can find greater safety until the Russian forces defeat the Nazis. Naftuli’s schemes are successful, though there are many close calls and much suffering along the way.
Upon Nessya’s questioning, Miri’s youthful perspective, enhanced by the knowledge gained through her adult years, is now tapped. She releases a lifetime of repressed memories, allowing her granddaughter Nessya to gain a moving and meaningful understanding of the Holocaust without confronting the horrid realities of the death camps.
The characters are crisply differentiated, superb illustrations help us relate to them, and suspense runs high.
First published in Hebrew in 2006, this book is perfect for youngsters twelve and older.
Philip K. Jason is professor emeritus of English at the United States Naval Academy. A former editor of Poet Lore, he is the author or editor of twenty books, including Acts and Shadows: The Vietnam War in American Literary Culture and Don’t Wave Goodbye: The Children’s Flight from Nazi Persecution to American Freedom.