Alina, the youngest of her siblings, is perfectly aware that she is spoiled, but she relishes the doting she receives from both her family and. her beloved crush, Tomasz. As her world begins to collapse around her, and the Germans invade her poor, industrial Polish town, she learns that she must grow up fast and that being careless of what is happening around her could cost her or someone close to her their life.
Fast forward to present day, we also meet Alice, struggling to keep up the balance of the life she never quite expected. The mother of a son with autistic spectrum disorder, Alice finds herself constantly advocating for him, sometimes even with her own husband. When her grandmother, Babcia, becomes acutely ill and asks of her the one thing she’s ever asked of her, it may push her fully over the edge – or possibly bring her back from it.
This heart-wrenching story, a work of fiction but laced with details from the author’s Polish, Catholic background, is a beautiful tribute to the utter bravery of Righteous Gentiles who resisted and rebelled against Nazi hatred and violence during WWII in order to save their fellow Polish, Jewish citizens. The Poles living through the Nazi occupation suffered also and some escaped to other countries. And the immigrant experience during war carries with it trauma, no matter where one comes from and no matter when it has occurred.
The writing is truly beautiful. We feel the characters deeply and their emotions become our own. We experience the pent-up rage that Alice feels as a mother and wife, and while reading, I had to remind myself to breathe, almost as if for her. We feel Alina’s profound terror, worrying constantly about the safety of her true love, Tomasz, and that of her entire family. And we almost can’t read quickly enough as the suspense mounts and we learn of the plot twist that is truly unexpected. It is a clever and warmly woven yarn – just be sure to have the tissues on hand!
This is a hard read, but well worth the journey! I believe this is a MUST READ!