As if weathering adolescence weren’t hard enough, war casts Fing into further maelstroms of terror and heartbreak in this sequel to Nine Open Arms (2014).
As a narrator, Josephine “Fing” Boon makes a particularly sharp-tongued, angry, and naïve observer of events. It’s hard to blame her for coming across as unlikable. The series of scourges she endures begins with having to leave school to take a job as hired companion to Liesl—a demanding, manipulative, and deeply traumatized child in the household of the Dutch town’s wealthy Cigar Emperor and his German wife, called, in the region’s Limburgish slang, the Pruusin. It continues with the departure of her first boyfriend, who returns a Nazi-sympathizing Blackshirt, and the unexpected arrival of what she deems her “Red Flood.” It escalates through the German occupation, increasing hardships, a devastating family breakup, and the rescue of one of her two sisters from being bundled aboard a train with a group of Jewish deportees…including, shockingly, the Pruusin. As the absorbingly complex narrative progresses, Fing isn’t the only character in the white-default cast apt to leave readers with conflicted sympathies. Coming almost as a relief, the emotional bombshells ultimately culminate in an air raid’s physical one that leaves Fing and readers poised with no end in sight.
Hard battles form this satisfying novel’s throughline, some fought in the open but most won or lost in the heart. (cast list, glossaries) (Historical fiction. 12-15)