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 The author, who was born in Poland in 1921 and lived in hiding throughout WW II, has concentrated with devastating effect on the anguish of ordinary people thrust into horror (the story collection A Scrap of Time, 1987). Here, she offers the chronicle of a wartime journey of two Polish-Jewish sisters through Nazi-dominated Poland and Germany. Narrated by ``Katarzyna,'' older sister of ``Elzbieta'' (the pair adopt new names and identities throughout), the journey begins when Father sends them away from certain death in their Polish town. The sisters have forged papers identifying them as Polish village girls who've volunteered to work in Germany. They're discovered (``You set out too late. Now everyone is on to it''), informed on, then miraculously escape--but at the knife-point of anxiety there is no joy: ``Perhaps later I would be happy and recall with pride the obstacles we had overcome. Perhaps.'' Eventually, they're sent to a factory in the Ruhr valley, where, in horrible conditions, Katarzyna, looking over the group of gentile coworkers, wistfully hopes that ``our common fate will unite us.'' But hatred is rooted too deep. There are vicious betrayals, taunts, and cruel threats when the sisters' identity is discovered--plus other strange escapes, train trips, one with the younger sibling near collapse with fever. Finally, through chance and the girls' amazing stamina, the war ends, and then comes the return when ``even tears are permissible. But that was the hardest--she was still unable to cry.'' One of the keener, skilled Holocaust testaments that pierces into the dusk of nightmare and a world drained of humanity.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-374-28541-1
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1992