In November, when Irma Joubert’s book hits bookstores across the world and becomes Target Book Club’s pick of the month, there may be a little confusion with another book that has a very similar title. But let me inform you, the titles are the only similarities between these two books.
In fact, The Girl from the Train, which was first published in Afrikaans in 2013 before becoming a bestseller in the Netherlands, this book probably had its title first.
At age six, Gretl Schmidt is a determined and brave child. She squeezes between the bars of a train bound for Auschwitz and jumps out with her sister. Through a series of events, she is cared for by Jakob Kowalski, a Polish native who is fighting for the home army.
When Jakob’s family is no longer able to care for the girl a few years later, he takes her to an orphanage in Germany. On another train, he reads an article about South African citizens who are interested in adopting German children. Gretl’s new life in South Africa begins.
Readers will grow with Gretl as she is placed and displaced, as she struggles to find a home, a family, and an anchor. One child’s experiences of repeated loss will hit you in the gut and the heart. And poor Gretl seems to get hit with horrible blow after blow. She must keep her secrets or her new family won’t want her. The one person she has trusted with everything is no longer with her.
I am continuously amazed at the number of lives that were effected by World War II. Not only were the Jews persecuted by the Germans but there were also countries who were inundated by Russian troops. And children continued to be the innocent victims for years.
Gretl and Jakob’s stories are hard to read. Just when it looks like something good might happen to one of them, something comes along to throw them off their game. But through it all, their friendship remains.
****The Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.