Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Aushwitz. Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks.
As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They intend to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.
Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her in. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.
But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families—so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.
Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.
Irma Joubert was a history teacher for 35 years. This experience has stood her in good stead when it comes to doing extensive research for her historical novels. She writes with empathy and a deep insight into personal relationships. She and her husband live in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
It is funny that the best book of 2015, is the last book that I completed this year. Irma Joubert’s novel, The Girl from The Train (not to be confused with any of the other girl/train books), is the only one of her books to be translated into English from her native Afrikaans. I am hoping that it will not be the last because this book has it all — a beautiful writing style, characters that capture the heart and descriptions that put the reader in the midst of the story. From war torn Poland to the wilds of the South African bushvelt, Joubert takes the reader on a tour through the emotional aftermath of trauma and the hope of new life. Along the way, the characters struggle to retain their identity in their quest to survive.
I didn’t make a lot of notes as I read The Girl from The Train. I was too immersed in the story to pull myself away. I also found myself bleary eyed from extensive reading periods. You will find it hard to put down. I often find that the books that affect me the most are the hardest to review. Words fail me. Let me just say that this book is a must read and perfect for book discussion groups. It also gets a Very Highly Recommended designation from me, something that only a handful of books merit.
So, did you get some book money for Christmas? Then make sure you include The Girl from The Train in your purchases.
Very Highly Recommended.
Great for Book Clubs.
To purchase this book, click HERE. The Kindle version is currently $1.99!!
(Thanks to Thomas Nelson for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)