The empathy that Balson makes us feel for protagonist Eli Rosen never lets up, as we follow him from Nazi-occupied Poland to post war Germany and finally to Chicago during the Vietnam War era. While Eli was luckier than most Jews in Poland, his family's construction company kept them out of the camps for most of the war, watching what happened to most of Poland and eventually to Eli’s family was heart wrenching. I especially appreciate Balson’s ability to paint a realistic and terrifying picture of the camps without graphically describing the torture.
The sections of the book that focused on allied occupied Germany and the displaced persons camps was a true education for me. I certainly knew these places existed but didn’t realize how uncomfortable they were. Eli and his son spent time trying to help those with nowhere to turn, but the trading of illegal Visas often seemed the only way out. These people had their lives, but there was little else left from the world they once inhabited.
I also enjoyed the sections that took place in the mid sixties in Chicago. It is so alien to what Eli knows, but he is determined to find the truth as he searches for the wife he was separated from so many years before and tries to make his way among strangers who soon become friends.
Balson is a master at characterization, and the reader enjoys the warm relationships between his characters even as he/she is caught up in their pain. He focuses very little attention on the Nazi’s themselves but rather shows us what horrors these men brought to a people who did them no harm.
Publisher - St. Martin's Press
Date of Publication - September 22, 2020