The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman
This is the beautifully written saga of Lenka and Josef who fall in love in the late 1930’s in the romantic city of Prague, just prior to the onset of WWII. The war separates them tragically and the story tells the tale of their lives during and after the war. Lenka is caught in the Nazi web of ghetto, deportation, and concentration camps. The reader feels her hunger and filth and cold along with her, it is made so real. Josef manages to escape to America, but the loss of his family is a silent ache that he secretly bears his whole life. Eventually, life brings them together but only after they have lived thinking the other had died during the war.
This book is a love story but it is filled with well-researched historical fiction, with more history than fiction. Some of the characters that the author has woven into the story were real people that the author learned about in her research of the Holocaust. The author highlights, in particular, the artwork that was done by both the children and the adults in Theresin, the showcase camp set up by the Germans. These brave souls depicted, in their art, the hideous conditions in which they were living and some of their paintings and drawings were able to be leaked out to the world for publication. Many more were uncovered after the inmates were liberated. This book celebrated the many brave souls, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who fought their own artistic battle with their Nazi captors.
What was also unique about this book was how the author highlighted the tragedy not only of those who lived through the concentration camps but also those who escaped but lost family, homes and all that was familiar to them. While those who lived through the camps suffered unimaginable horrors, those who were forced to leave their homes, their possessions, their birthplaces, were also displaced and traumatized in their own ways. Those who came to America had to learn a new language, become familiar with an entirely different culture and learn to cope with the losses they inevitably endured. In addition, the “survivors guilt” must have been overwhelming. I love that this book brought this to light, showing further how the Holocaust caused such far-reaching suffering and tragedy.