Haunted by the loss of her parents to war and typhus, and driven from her Polish shtetl during the murderous anti-Semitic pogroms of 1921, Devorah, 12, and her younger sister, Nechama, are taken with 200 other Jewish orphans to safety in South Africa’s Jewish community. The first-person narrative in this debut novel swings back and forth between Devorah’s struggle to accept her new home, the memories of what she left behind, and her guilt: Is feeling safe and happy a betrayal of Mama and Papa? Closely based on the real-life experience of the author’s mother-in-law, the story is gripping, especially Devorah’s loving but unsentimental bond with her irritating sister. In a quiet commentary on separation and loss, Devorah realizes that a black servant is forced by law to live apart from her child. The history of persecution and immigration will echo with many American families.
B Hazel Rochman
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