The End of the Line

Sharon E. McKay
  • Review
By – June 16, 2015

Today chil­dren are often told, Don’t talk to strangers.” Not long ago, how­ev­er it was dif­fer­ent. Once strangers were thought of as res­cuers. So begins The End of the Line by Sharon E. McK­ay. While rely­ing on the help of strangers may be unusu­al in today’s world, McK­ay illu­mi­nates the neces­si­ty of these right­eous gen­tiles” in 1940s Europe. 

The End of the Line depicts the plight of Beat­rix, a five-year-old Jew­ish girl who watch­es as her moth­er is dragged off an Ams­ter­dam train by a Nazi offi­cial. In order to save the child from the same fate, six­ty-five-year-old tick­et tak­er Lars Gorter impul­sive­ly tells the offi­cer that the child is his niece. Along with his six­ty-three-year-old broth­er, tram dri­ver Hans, the life­long bach­e­lors, who have no expe­ri­ence rais­ing chil­dren, take in lit­tle Beat­rix and become her uncles. In their des­per­a­tion, they enlist the help of two neigh­bors: the elder­ly but fierce Mrs. Vos and young for­mer school­teacher, Lieve. The group quick­ly becomes a lov­ing fam­i­ly as they strug­gle to keep Beat­rix’s real iden­ti­ty a secret until Hol­land’s liberation. 

From food rations to con­stant threat of bombs, McK­ay depicts the neg­a­tive impact the Nazi regime had on non-Jews too. Although we get a sense of Beat­rix’s fear as she waits for her mother’s return, the sto­ry is most­ly chron­i­cled through the eyes of the Gorter broth­ers in a third per­son narrative. 

The short mid­dle-grade nov­el sen­si­tive­ly touch­es on the atroc­i­ties of war in a way that is under­stand­able to younger read­ers. It shows the brav­ery of those who risked their lives to har­bor Jew­ish chil­dren dur­ing the war. 

The book includes an after­word which fea­tures facts, per­ti­nent dates and sta­tis­tics regard­ing Hol­land’s involve­ment in the war, the allied forces and the ways in which Jew­ish chil­dren were smug­gled to safe loca­tions via res­cue mis­sions dur­ing the Holocaust. 

Jil­lian Bietz stud­ied library tech­nol­o­gy and research skills and cur­rent­ly works in the library sys­tem. She is a book review­er for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and Kirkus Review Indie. Jil­lian lives in South­ern California.

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