An engulfing, high-tension account of the hardship, hunger, and horrors experienced by a group of German children trying to...

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MAX'S GANG

An engulfing, high-tension account of the hardship, hunger, and horrors experienced by a group of German children trying to find their way home to Berlin in 1945. As the chaotic end of World War II draws near, the children are herded from their evacuation camp in Czechoslovakia. Marching through the woods in new boots incapacitates smaller, weaker Adolf. His friend Max and another boy, Peter, wait with him for a ride but miss connections, and the three boys must make their way on their own through hostile country. Adolf now wears the prized boots made by Max's father as his journeyman's project and entrusted to Max for safekeeping during the war. Along the way the boys pick up a little girl, Tilli, whose family has been killed on the road. She has their horse, but it's soon stolen by crafty Germans. A priest at a shelter places the children with a farmer who imprisons and overworks them. When they escape they take Tilli's new friend Billie, also a Berliner. The five travel for a while with two deserting German soldiers, flee the Americans in one direction only to meet Germans fleeing them from another, and go to great lengths to hop a dung-filled freight train only to find themselves trapped inside while the train moves back in the direction they've come from. A man standing with them has his head blown off, and later Max's head is cracked open by a stone thrown by a farmer when the children are begging for food. A strange woman gives them shelter and an ill woman they help gives Tilli a home. Adolf, now an orphan, is taken in by relatives in the country. The other three are guided at night past Russian guards by an odd team, a man who charges for the service and betrays his clients and his honest nephew, a boy their age, who sneaks them through. The whole ordeal ends in irony when we learn that Max, slapped twice by his father for losing the boots, spends only a few moments with his family in Berlin before leaving the apartment and vanishing forever. Baer vividly projects the characters, their relationships, the dangers and hurdles on their way, and the atmosphere of turmoil, without sensationalism, sentimentality, or moralizing. The account makes compelling reading.

Pub Date: May 1, 1983

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983