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Monday, March 31, 2014

"For Such a Time" by Kate Breslin

Mirroring the story found in the Book of Esther, this book changes its setting to Germany in WWII.  Hadassah has forged papers that state she is Aryan (her blond hair and blues eyes help).  However, she still ends up in the ghetto.  As a child she loves is torn from her, a brave SS soldier takes Hadassah—her Stella, her fake Aryan name—to work for him as his secretary.  Bald, emaciated, and wearing prison garb, the soldier Aric gives Stella a wig and food and new clothes.  Slowly, Stella is nursed back to health.  In Aric’s home, Stella meets a one-eared Jewish boy named Joseph, whom she begins to love as her own child.  Joseph is also involved in a secret note-smuggling effort that involves Stella’s uncle Morty (to no surprise, this nickname is short for Mordecai).  One Stella’s secretarial duties begin to take speed, she is heartbroken and torn as she must write notes for Nazi and even type up deportation lists for Jews who will meet their fate in Auschwitz.  As one may suspect, Stella and Aric develop a romance.  There is emotional tension as Stella hides her Jewish identity and Aric must cope with the monster the war has turned him into.  Drama ensues when Aric’s fellow soldiers hit on Stella and try to woo her away from Aric.  The climax of the book involves a train to Auschwitz, and I will not spoil the ending.  What I did like was how there was an author’s note at the back of the book explaining what was and was not fictionalized.  There is even a section in the back that defines some Jewish and German vocabulary.  There is no swearing in this book, and while the violence is not written graphically, allusions to crematoriums and shootings are there.  In terms of romance, that is not graphic either.  Stella and Aric do not go any further than kissing in the book; and Stella is honorable in that she does not sleep in Aric’s bedroom when not married to him, insisting, “I am not your mistress.”  

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