When Noa was 16 years old a German soldier wooed her into bed, resulting in a pregnancy for which her parents kicked her out of their house and their lives since the soldier was gone by the time she knew about the baby. She was sent to a girls’ home and the baby was taken away from her immediately after his birth.
Astrid, a 20 something-year-old Jewish woman from the Klemt family known widely around Europe for the Klemt Family Circus, married a German officer and lived happily with him for several years. Right until the day he came in with divorce papers because Hitler made it illegal to marry or be married to a Jew. Now a 37-year-old woman, Astrid travels back to her homeland, to find all of her family missing. Having been trained on the flying trapeze since she could barely walk, Herr Neuhoff offers her a position with his family’s circus, even though he knows the risks of harboring a Jew.
After her baby was taken Noa began cleaning a train station in exchange for a small room for sleeping and a bit of food. Hearing a strange noise, Noa found a rail car loaded with babies…no mothers, just babies, many of whom were already dead, some barely hanging on, and all would freeze to death within hours. Without actually thinking about the consequences Noa grabs one of the babies. Then, realizing the implications of what she has done, she runs away from the station and what little warmth and security it held for her and out into the snow-covered forest with only the clothes on her back and the baby. When she is later found close to death in the woods she’s taken in by Herr Neuhoff where she and Astrid meet.
Astrid, knowing that her new name and façade could fail at any moment, doesn’t take to Noah very well. Especially since she has to train her to perform on the trapeze in just 6 weeks. She sees her as a threat; Noa’s presence could lead the Schutzstaffel (SS) right back to Astrid. But as they live and work together they begin to form a bond that no one could have ever foreseen. Both have a life to save: For Astrid, it is her own, for Noah, it is the baby she named Theo and both will do whatever it takes to make sure neither life is endangered.
Get your tissues ready! This is a beautifully written story based on actual events in Germany during World War II. Pam Jenoff, a law professor who once worked with Holocaust survivors for the US State Department in Poland, found evidence of two major events, the “Unknown Children” and the Circus Althoff which protected several Jews during the war. She ingeniously melded the two stories together to create The Orphan’s Tale and the result is masterfully written and pays a great tribute to those involved in both circumstances.
Told from the alternating points of view of Astrid and Noa, we learn about their trials, struggles, greatest fears, and what it means to be a family during the most horrific of situations. This is actually a tale of three orphans who actually found love that knew no bounds.
Once you read this, Herr Neuhoff, Noah, Astrid, Peter, and Theo will stay with you long after the last page, as well they should. History, once forgotten, will be repeated. We must keep these stories alive so we never have to bear such atrocities again.
- The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff
- Hardback: 352 pages
- Paperback: 368 pages
- Kindle: 2710 KB
- Audio: Narrated by Jennifer Wydra and Kyla Garcia
- Publisher: MIRA Books (February 21, 2017)
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Also by Pam Jenoff:
- The Kommandant’s Girl (2007)
- The Diplomat’s Wife (The Kommandant’s Girl Book 2) (2008)
- Almost Home (Jordan Weiss Book 1) (2009)
- A Hidden Affair (Jordan Weiss Book 2) (2010)
- The Things We Cherished (2011)
- The Ambassador’s Daughter (The Kommandant’s Girl Book 0.5) (2012)
- The Winter Guest (2014)
- The Other Girl (The Winter Guest Book 1.5 – Novella) (2014)
- The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach (2015)