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Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

Setting: WWII France/Germany
Genre: Historic Fiction
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: February 21, 2017



There is a little bit of a "Like Water for Elephants" feel to The Orphan's Tale. Pam Jenoff's story is so much more, however. The setting is Europe during WWII. The story actually begins with an elderly woman in France searching desperately for something hidden in a circus car at a museum. It then goes back in time to tell a very bittersweet story of two women, the situations they face, and the events of WWII.

After 17-year-old Noa has an affair with a Nazi soldier, she ends up pregnant. Her father orders her to leave them and never return. Her blonde hair and blue eyes are her saving grace. She ends up in a home for unwed mothers where she'll give birth to her child and give that child up for adoption.

Heartbroken and childless, Noa ends up in a train station where she is given a job cleaning. One day, she finds piles of infants in one of the train cars. One infant looks just like her son, so she snatches the infant and flees into the snowy woods. She's discovered by a traveling German circus show. That's how she meets Jewish Astrid.

After marrying a German and leaving her family's circus, Astrid ends up getting cast out by her husband when soldiers are all told to divorce spouses who are Jewish. Astrid's family has vanished, so she goes to her family's neighbor, a rival circus owner who takes her in. Astrid is given the responsibility of turning Noa into a trapeze artist. This helps the women form a strong friendship, even if it starts out on tenuous grounds.

The Orphan's Tale continues from there showcasing the women's struggles, joys, and fears. It's a poignant tale that also shares a lot of the daily life in a circus. I loved it and was sad when the story came to an end. At that point, I'm not sure I was ready for everything to be over.



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