The Lit­tle Liar

  • Review
By – March 4, 2024

The Lit­tle Liar by Mitch Albom tells the sto­ries of four people. 

And fifty thousand.

And six million. 

But for now, let’s focus on the four main char­ac­ters: Nico Krispis, Sebas­t­ian Krispis, Fan­nie Nah­mias, and Udo Graff — three Jew­ish chil­dren from Saloni­ka, Greece and a high-rank­ing Ger­man offi­cer, respec­tive­ly. Their lives are irrev­o­ca­bly inter­twined dur­ing the Nazi inva­sion of Saloni­ka, when Nico, a boy who always tells the truth, is sep­a­rat­ed from his fam­i­ly and meets Udo Graff. Graff con­vinces him to tell the fifty thou­sand Jews board­ing trains that they are going to new homes, when in truth, they are head­ed for Auschwitz. By the time Nico under­stands what he’s done, it is too late. His entire fam­i­ly is aboard the final train to the death camp, aware that he has betrayed them. Nico is left alone with his guilt — a child who becomes a man with a sin­gle lie. 

The book fol­lows Nico, Udo, Fan­nie, and Sebas­t­ian through the war years and in the decades after. Although all four char­ac­ters make it through the war alive, the war nev­er leaves them; the char­ac­ters are con­sumed by grief, anger, jeal­ousy, self-hatred, vengeance, and, at times, even hope. They run from their past, but they also run toward it. They wit­ness acts of immense kind­ness, as well as acts of vile hatred and cru­el­ty. Theirs is the real­i­ty of the Holo­caust and of life. 

Nar­rat­ed by the voice of Truth, Albom’s breath­tak­ing nov­el con­sid­ers what it means to tell a lie. It explores redemp­tion and for­give­ness, even in the face of ter­ri­ble betray­al. A refrain echoes through­out the sto­ry: A man, to be for­giv­en, will do any­thing.” Atone­ment takes many forms, and, as Truth explains, it is a vis­cer­al human need. For our sake and for oth­ers’, it’s impor­tant to make things right. How­ev­er, there are things in this world, like the Holo­caust, that have no solu­tion — there is no way to reverse what’s been bro­ken. The Lit­tle Liar real­izes that for­give­ness must be both giv­en and received, and that this can take a life­time, or many. That does not mean it isn’t worth striv­ing for. 

A tale of frac­tured fam­i­ly and for­give­ness, The Lit­tle Liar mat­ters even more in this moment of divi­sion in our world. Lies are per­va­sive, but so is truth. The only way to achieve a bet­ter world is to under­stand the mis­takes, lies, and injus­tices of the past and the present, and to remem­ber. And then, we must tell the world what hap­pened here. 

Isado­ra Kianovsky (she/​her) is the Devel­op­ment Asso­ciate at the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and has loved Jew­ish books since she was about eight years old. She grad­u­at­ed from Smith Col­lege in 2023 with a B.A. in Jew­ish Stud­ies and a minor in His­to­ry. Pri­or to work­ing at JBC, she interned at the Hadas­sah-Bran­deis Insti­tute, the Jew­ish Wom­en’s Archive, and also stud­ied abroad a few times to learn about dif­fer­ent aspects of Jew­ish cul­ture and his­to­ry! Out­side of work, she loves to write and spend time with her loved ones.

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