The rise of Nazism catapults Emma’s once idyllic life in Vienna into chaos. As she grapples with the harsh new reality of her country’s betrayal, she desperately clings to her humanity by hiding her Jewish friends. In the aftermath, she finds solace in helping those in even greater need than herself.
The war sends Sophie, an innocent young girl, down unexpected paths. She returns to Vienna years later in search of her lost history.
Friedrich, Sophie’s uncle, teeters on the edge of what is right and his personal survival. His actions and inaction leave long-lasting repercussions that will threaten to throw all their lives in turmoil again.
Targeted Age Group:: adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
My Viennese family's experiences lie at the core of this novel. My childhood was spent with Holocaust survivors and Europeans displaced by war. I absorbed their memories of betrayals and sacrifice, of courage and difficult decisions, of strangers' kindnesses and of sheer luck. I came to understand that gratitude for having found safety in America was tinged with longing for the lives they'd once loved and had to give up. The past is never quite past, and the lingering shadows of what was lost inspired me to reflect of what my family's life might have been had they not been able to leave.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I wanted to create characters one cared about, that would represent the different ways one might react to war and displacement. I wanted to show how, when faced with authoritarian regimes, people resist, willingly adopt, or silently go along – each way bringing its own costs.
Unaware that trouble was only days away, Emma was happier than she’d ever been. Once she might have described the early morning emptiness of their street as gloomy. Now she delighted in the dawn dancing silently on the cobblestones. The howling winter wind at the window would have frightened her. Now she greeted its icy arms around her and laughed. Even the scent of steaming bleach filling their small apartment every morning was comforting in its familiarity.
“Sing with me, Mama. It’ll make you feel good.”
Her mother looked up from the row of laundry baskets at her feet as two pots of soapy water continued to boil on the kitchen stove.
“Don’t be silly, Emma, and close the window. The neighbors will complain if they hear us.”
“Come on, Mama, don’t worry about them.”
Her mother pulled a pillow case from one of the baskets, smoothed and folded it, and added it to a stack of already folded laundry on the dining table.
“I have more important things to think about than singing, and so should you,” she said, her voice weary.
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