Monday, November 7, 2016

Book Review: The Girl From the Train

Finally! Finally, after several weeks of less-than-stellar book selections, I found a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. Someone from my on-line book club suggested The Girl From the Train as a comparable title for readers who enjoyed The Book Thief. Not to be confused with the currently popular, The Girl on the Train, this book tells a story from World War II that centers on one young Jewish girl who escapes the dreaded death camps thanks to the intervention of one brave man.

Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt jumps from a train and waits quietly to be reunited with her mother and grandmother, once they reach the next up-hill stretch and an opportunity to jump also. Meanwhile, twenty-one-year-old Jakob Kowalski plants a bomb on the track, intended to take out a train full of German soldiers. When Gretl's unscheduled train, bound for Auschwitz, crosses the bomb, her beloved mother and grandmother do not survive. Jakob feels a sense of obligation to this sole survivor and takes her in to live with his family for a time. But the dangers of discovery force his hand and, risking exposure, he presents her as a German war orphan to an organization hoping to rehome such children with adoptive Protestant families in South Africa. Neither Gretl nor Jakob can reveal the truth of her nationality, her Catholic upbringing, or her ties to communist Poland. They do not know if they will ever meet again, but theirs is a strong connection formed in the midst of trial and tragedy.

I think one of the reasons the book resonated so strongly is because it is a vivid story of redemption. The brokenness of this world is redeemed through the courage and intrepid faith of ordinary individuals. Despite the loss and sorrow revealed in the story, it leaves the reader with a sense of hope and gratitude for the resilience of the human spirit. I'm so glad someone brought this heart-warming book to my attention.

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