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.
- Interesting on many levels from start to finish--romance, history, psychology. . .
I tend to be rather critical, so 5 stars from me indicates an exceptional book. The writing was tight. (I get quite weary when I could cut out 1/4 of the book and never miss it.). The characters are well developed--The reader does feel he knows and relates to Gretel and Jakov. The history fascinates and lines up with reality (I checked. I was unaware of a lot of this information.) The story not only holds interest from start to finish, but is one that I often re-listen to.
- Love in the midst of the holocaust
The ultimate love story! I cried in spots and rejoiced in spots and would love to give this to all girls who feel like God isn't guiding their path through life and love.
- Amazing book! Careful...spoilers
I could barely stop listening to this book. The narrator was wonderful, but the story was amazing.
I was telling my son about how the little girl and her sister were told by her grandmother to jump from the train as it was going up a hill. In moments after their jump the bridge the train was crossing blew up and everyone was killed. Later we find out it was on its way to Auschwitz full of Jews. His reply was, "The people on the train were lucky then." I hadn't thought of that. I felt bad that the girls lost their family...but starvation, freezing temperatures and furnaces would have been so much worse.
This was the little girl from the train, the one that survived.
Spoiler below...don't read on if you don't want to read a synopsis...
Gretl was a 6 year old who is now orphaned in a strange country, her sister having died from an unknown illness shortly after they were found. As it turns out, one of the young men, Jakob, who blew up the bridge, took her in and was responsible for Gretl for years, until his mother said she needed to go, that there was not enough food for her in such a difficult time in Poland. He took her to an orphanage in Germany and was later was sent to South Africa, and adopted.
Gretl never forgot Jakob. She kept his cross with her always even though it was forbidden. He was the big brother she never had, he was the father figure she needed, he was a part of her heart. As time passed, however, she realized that his decision to take her to that particular orphanage was the best thing that could've happened to her. Her adoptive parents were the perfect parents for her, loving, nurturing, and they adored her. But nightmares of a fire that she didn't understand plagued her for years, and no one knew how to help her.
Jakob never forgot Gretl. She too was a part of his heart. She was the little sister he took care of and felt so very responsible for.
After being warned by a family member of a plot for his arrest when he got off the train, he escaped Poland and eventually made his way to South Africa where he knew Gretl was, but also because South Africa was not communist, which was what he was escaping from.
Jakob re-entered her life and everything changed.
I can't say enough how wonderful this book was. Masterfully written. You see everything this author portrays. You feel everything on the pages. You cry when the depths of emotion overtake you. You yearn when there's yearning. You love because you just can't help it. And you cheer for what's anticipated.
My favorite book this year!
PS. I just came back from South Africa last week, and I didn't know this was the setting for this book. It was a delight to read it from that standpoint because I was in the very area that Gretl lived.
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- Fascinating historical fiction
Very well written and the reader was terrific.
- More books like this please!
This audio book captured my interest from start to finish. I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next but at the same time dreaded when it would end. The characters were very well developed, the story extremely interesting & the book so well written that you could almost picture what was happening. The reading was also very well done and pleasant to listen to. One of the best book I have “read”.
I loved this book, well written, loved the British accent narration, believable and engaging characters. If you have any interest in Holocaust, WWII stories this is excellent.
- good book
I really liked this book. A sweet story.
- good book
I really liked this book. A sweet story.
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