Thanks to the publisher for sending me a free copy of the book.
August 1942. Jacob and Moses Stein, two young Jewish brothers, are staying with their aunt in Paris amid the Nazi occupation. The boys’ parents, well-known German playwrights, have left the brothers in their aunt’s care until they can find safe harbor for their family. But before the Steins can reunite, a great and terrifying roundup occurs. The French gendarmes, under Nazi order, arrest the boys and take them to the Vélodrome d’Hiver—a massive, bleak structure in Paris where thousands of France’s Jews are being forcibly detained.
Jacob and Moses know they must flee in order to survive, but they only have a set of letters sent from the south of France to guide them to their parents. Danger lurks around every corner as the boys, with nothing but each other, trek across the occupied country. Along their remarkable journey, they meet strangers and brave souls who put themselves at risk to protect the children—some of whom pay the ultimate price for helping these young refugees of war.
This inspiring novel, now available for the first time in English, demonstrates the power of family and the endurance of the human spirit—even through the darkest moments of human history.
I feel like we’ve come to a point where it’s very hard to write a story about WWII that hadn’t already been told. Escobar’s book turned out to be a unique surprise for me, because it was exactly that: a WWII story I hadn’t already heard. A story of two young boys making their way through war-torn and Nazi-filled countries in a desperate attempt to reunite themselves with their parents.
As I always say, I’m a huge fan of character-driven novels, and stories about families and sibling relationships. So I especially appreciated the bond between Jacob and Moses. Their dedication to each other, and to finding their parents, was both heartwarming and heartbreaking (WWII). There were plenty of instances, both good and not so good, when I was reading with my heart in my throat.
I have to admit to being surprised at how hopeful and inspirational this story was. There were so many nuggets of wisdom peppered throughout the story, life lessons important for everyone to hear. Normally I approach a WWII story expecting to be in a near constant state of anxiety as I make my way through the story, but that wasn’t what happened here. It was a refreshing experience.
One other aspect worth mentioning: this is a translation from the original Spanish, and it read flawlessly. I’ve read some less than stellar translations, and this was not one of them. I didn’t even realize it had been translated until after I’d read it.
This is definitely a story to add to your TBR if you’re a fan of historical fiction, WWII fiction, sibling stories, and/or stories of hope and perseverance.
Book stats: hardcover, 384 pages, Thomas Nelson, February 25, 2020