Friday, September 15, 2017


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Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is a historical fiction gem. Kelly takes the reader on an emotional ride of three women's intersecting lives and their respective roles during the Holocaust and World War II. I know what you're thinking, do we really need another book about the Holocaust?

At nearly 500 pages on such a dark topic, you would think the book would be hard to comb through. However, the author did a fabulous job with moving the story by alternating perspectives between the three main characters, often leaving a cliffhanger in one chapter forcing the reader to race through the next two to find out what happens.

The three main women in the story are Kasia, a young Polish teenager who participates in the Resistance and ends up in a concentration camp; Herta, a German doctor at the same concentration camp; and Caroline whose philanthropic efforts to the result of the war are executed from the United States. Adding the U.S. perspective helped give a break from the horrible tortures that were described in the concentration camp. (It almost made this reader forget the injustices that were occurring daily to African Americans during the same time. Almost.) The beautiful ache in this book is that, although these women come from different places and backgrounds, they all experienced loss to a degree - some more than others. I think the message here is we really are more similar than we think, and if we seek the humanity in others, we can avoid deplorable tragedies like this in the future.

The most sobering part of the book is that, in many ways, we are still struggling with some of the same societal challenges in 2017 as we did nearly 80 years ago. We know the difference between right and wrong, but we don't always speak up. We are still turning refugees away, often to their deaths, because we are afraid there isn't enough pie for everyone. We are still failing children. Not only did I enjoy the creativity that Kelly invested in this novel, but I appreciated the moments of introspection and reflection the story offered.

Even though we continue to learn about the past, we also continue to repeat it contributing different variations of the same, sad song. So, I would say, yes, we need another book about the Holocaust, and another one, and another, until we get it.

Recommendation: I really enjoyed this book. It is one of the few World War II-set novels I've read that gave attention to post-war effects. I'm looking forward to Kelly's prequel to this book.

Until next time ... Read on!


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