Opening in 1939 Transylvania, five-year-old Josef witnesses the murder of his family by the Romanian Iron Guard and is rescued by a Gentile maid to be raised as her own son. Five years later, Josef rescues a young girl, Mila, after her parents are killed while running to meet the Rebbe they hoped would save them. Josef helps Mila reach Zalman Stern, a leader in the Satmar community, in whose home Mila is raised as a sister to Zalman’s daughter, Atara. As the two girls mature, Mila’s faith intensifies, while her beloved sister Atara discovers a world of books and learning that she cannot ignore. With the rise of communism in central Europe, the family moves to Paris, to the Marais, where Zalman tries to raise his children apart from the city in which they live.
When the two girls come of age, Mila marries within the faith, while Atara continues to question fundamentalist doctrine. The different choices the two sisters makes force them apart until a dangerous secret threatens to banish them from the only community they’ve ever known.
My Review: 4.5 stars
Although there was a slightly elusive beginning to this book and I felt like I was lost, it took no time to grab me and suck me in to this fanatical world of the Hasidic sect called the Satmar. From the fields of Transylvania to the streets of both Paris and Williamsburg, NY, this story unfolds between two sisters and a boy from their past who watched his family be murdered by the Nazi’s. This book presents us with ethical questions within religion, the love of family, the full circle of life and the choices we make and ultimately how they affect others. Beautifully written in many short chapters and short sections some of which read like lines of poetry.
I highly recommend this book no matter your religion because the central themes are paramount to everyone while you learn about the Satmar sect as well.
Quotes I liked:
The sky unleashed itself and they whirled as they had as children, arms stretched wide as their tongues searched their lips for the taste of clouds.”