Friday, July 29, 2022

The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel ~ Book Review

Working at a library in Florida, Eva Traube Abrams comes across a photo of an old French religious book in a newspaper article saying that a man in Germany is looking for the owner of the book.  It is a book that was rescued from the Germans in WWII and he is working to reunite those kinds of books with their original owners from before the war.  Eva is stunned as she has not seen that book in over 50 years.  It is a French religious book but it means so much more than that.  In 1942, Eva was a young French Jewish girl when the war came to France.  When her home was raided and her father taken away, Eva and her mother fled to a town up in the mountains in the Free Zone hoping to make it to Switzerland as her father desired.  Eva was very talented at art and she used those talents to forge her and her mother's passports.  When they finally made it to the town, the local priest came upon her and learned of her talents and talked her into using those talents to forge false identities and documents for the Jewish children they were helping to escape into Switzerland.  Eva reluctantly agreed to do it for a short time until she could get her and her mother out.  But her mother was angry with her and wanted to stay in France thinking her husband would come looking for them.  As Eva worked on the forged documents, she and Remy, a Resistance fighter also forging documents, came up with a plan to help remember the children's Jewish names so that they would not lose their real identities.  They took an old religious tome in the library of the church and used a code to keep record of each and every child so there would be record of their true identities.  As her temporary time helping drags on into a more permanent situation Eva works hard to save as many children as she can.  But then her Germans find out about what is happening in the small parish and they are betrayed.  As she runs for her life, Eva leaves a coded message in the book in the hopes that Remy is still alive and will one day come across it.  And now she sees the book in the newspaper and knows what she must do.  Eva books a flight to Germany, a place she never thought she'd ever set foot in.  

I loved this story.  Resistance fighters who forged documents and passports is an aspect of the war I'd never read about.  I loved that Eva's character grew and  became a strong and courageous young woman throughout the story.  The book seemed well researched and really brought out the how bravery was sometimes learned and nurtured in the war and not necessarily something one was just born with.  These forgers were really putting their lives on the line for the children and the author created a real page turning story that had a lot of heart and emotion woven through out it as she highlighted how the Jewish people who might have survived the war physically really lost their whole identities, including their names,  in trying to stay alive.  This book had it all:  historical fiction that taught me something I didn't know, a love story, betrayal, tense page turning, redemption.  Highly recommend!!

Rating:  10/10

Reading Challenge Goals Met:  June's Read Your Shelf Challenge (A book with a book on the cover)


Barbara Harper said...

This sounds really good.

Faith said...

sounds like a good one!!

Wendy said...

Oh I think I'd like that book. Will have to see if the library has it. Thanks for the review.