The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff– 368 pages
ARC from Netgalley and Mira
Seventeen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier during the occupation of her native Holland. Heartbroken over the loss of the baby she was forced to give up for adoption, she lives above a small German rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep. When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants, unknown children ripped from their parents and headed for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the baby that was taken from her. In a moment that will change the course of her life, she steals one of the babies and flees into the snowy night, where she is rescued by a German circus. The circus owner offers to teach Noa the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, spurning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid. At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond. But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their unlikely friendship is enough to save one another—or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything.
My Review: 4 stars
The Orphan’s Tale is a wonderful telling of two heroic women, each with a secret, both hiding in a German circus. As the past couple years have brought a plethora of titles with the world “girl” in them, I’ve been on a roll with “orphan” in the title. I get why this book has this title, however for me, the book is so much more than what the title represents. This comment alone could be discussed at length in a book club.
This story, based on similar situations that the author researched about righteous gentiles, was quite thought provoking. Hiding Jews in a circus was genius and equally risky as the author portrays quite well. This novel is punctuated with much loss and great hope.
I enjoyed the dual back-stories of the two main protagonists and how their relationship grew into a familial one, sometimes sister to sister and sometimes mother to child. Family was lost and found in the most unlikely of people and places during the war as this novel explores at many levels.
The love interests that both women found while in the circus were a little far fetched for me but added a good dollop of romance to the plot. In general, I’m not a fan of the circus but Jenoff did a wonderful job detailing the hard work and team atmosphere that is required for a circus to succeed. I really appreciated the detailed explanation of what it takes to be an aerialist. It was fascinating and I found myself online researching these types of circuses.
Quotes I liked:
I remained haunted by the world I had always wanted to escape.”
-“Though no one speaks of it, I sometimes wonder if we are marching toward extinction with each performance, too busy dancing and flying through the air to see it.”