Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Book of Lost Names, by Kristin Harmel

Once again, a book with numerous accolades has lived up to my expectations. It is also one more example of the incredible stories, both true and fictional, that have been born out of the tragedies of World War II.

Present day. It is 2005, and widowed Eva Traub-Abrams is living in Florida. She sees a German scholar on the news, holding an old book with no owner, recovered from piles of artifacts looted by the Nazis. She recognizes the book and is determined to retrieve it. Suddenly, sixty years disappear and Eva is transported to her own experience during the war.

The majority of the story takes place during that time, beginning in 1942, when Eva was a young woman. Jewish, born in France to Polish parents, her life is about to change forever. Formerly a student at the Sorbonne, her artistic skills are noticed and used to help those who cannot help themselves.

Eva experiences love and loss over the next few years, intensified by the dark cloud of war and the threat of capture, but we are anchored to the knowledge that she survives into old age. The main idea that came to my mind while reading was how war blurs some lines and makes others more distinct. Family and religion are no longer about blood relations and baptism. They are about connections and faith. The definitions of right and wrong also take on new meaning when survival is everything. The caveat, of course, being that everyone thinks they are doing the right thing.

This is a unique plot that looks at a group of people I’ve never seen profiled in historical fiction. We are reminded that the will to live can change one’s belief system, and no one knows what they are truly capable of until they are forced out of their comfort zone and placed into seemingly impossible situations. We are also reminded that, one way or another, God makes all things right.

9.5/10 Stars

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