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Germany, 1945. The soldiers who liberated the Gross-Rosen concentration camp said the war was over, but nothing feels over to eighteen-year-old Zofia Lederman. Her body has barely begun to heal; her mind feels broken. And her life is completely shattered: Three years ago, she and her younger brother, Abek, were the only members of their family to be sent to the right, away from the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Everyone else–her parents, her grandmother, radiant Aunt Maja–they went left.
Zofia’s last words to her brother were a promise: Abek to Zofia, A to Z. When I find you again, we will fill our alphabet. Now her journey to fulfill that vow takes her through Poland and Germany, and into a displaced persons camp where everyone she meets is trying to piece together a future from a painful past: Miriam, desperately searching for the twin she was separated from after they survived medical experimentation. Breine, a former heiress, who now longs only for a simple wedding with her new fiancé. And Josef, who guards his past behind a wall of secrets, and is beautiful and strange and magnetic all at once.
But the deeper Zofia digs, the more impossible her search seems. How can she find one boy in a sea of the missing? In the rubble of a broken continent, Zofia must delve into a mystery whose answers could break her–or help her rebuild her world.
“Abek to Zokia” I told him. “A to Z” he said back. “When I find you again, we will find our alphabet. And we Will be whole, and everything will be fine. I promise I will find you.”
There are so many books that chronicle the heartbreaking and absolutely gut wrenching conditions of humans and what they did that made them into monsters; but I have rarely found any book that chronicles the journey AFTER the war ends (if you have any such recommendations, please do not hesitate to comment/message/email me about it!).
Zofia Lederman is a young girl recently liberated from the concentration camps in Germany when the WWII ended – and the only thing that’s on her mind is to find her younger brother, Abek Lederman.
Zofia and Abek were separated when Abek was 12 years old, when theirs and other Jews were being separated by the Nazis to be sent to different camps. It was the promise that she made to her brother that keeps Zofia going, during and then after the war ends!
With the help of a Russian Soldier, Dima; who fancies himself as her protector, she travels back to their family home, where she expects her brother to be waiting for her. And is absolutely heartbroken when that hope shatters when she finds her family apartment desolate and sans her brother!
It’s easy to see that the author has actually done her research well – not just into the places and timeline; but also on the psyche of the humans and the condition of the country after their whole world is turned upside down – and this, while absolutely commendable does tend to work into the narration of the plot; more than it was needed.
Zofia, with her mental issues, is a protagonist whose version of the past and the present, in fact cannot be trusted; but her emotional affect just practically leaps out of the pages! And it is THAT reason why, if you are a fan of this genre; then you definitely NEED to pick up this book!
Monica Hesse is the New York Times bestselling author of Girl in the Blue Coat, American Fire, and The War Outside, as well as a columnist at The Washington Post writing about gender and its impact on society. She lives outside Washington, D.C. with her husband and their dog.