Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Auschwitz. Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks.
As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They mean to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.
Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her home. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.
But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families—so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.
Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.
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Author Irma Joubert
Grandpa John looked at her intently. Then he said, "You know, Grietjie, life is like a silver coin. You can spend it any way you wish, but you can only spend it once."
I really enjoyed this book. I absolutely love WWII era novels and this one was very good. This book starts out right in the middle of WWII, with Gretl Schmidt jumping from a train bound for Auschwitz. Through a chain of events she meets Jakob and the story begins to unfold.
This story is a story of friendship and love.
The book was translated into English from Afrikaans so I think at times it made the book seem a little bit simple. The chapters are very long, so it did take me a little while to read it.
I enjoyed the characters very much. Gretl reminded me of my daughters. Jakob was a kind and good man and took care of Gretl.
While the book was long and somewhat drawn out it really was a great story. My only real issue with the book was that there was a little bit of language scattered throughout. Taking into account that this was translated from another language and words don't always mean the same thing or are considered bad, it still is a bit of a turn off for me. Especially since this is supposed to be a Christian novel.
Overall a great book and a fascinating story.
I was blessed with a copy of this book by The Fiction Guild for review. A positive review was not required.
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