Helene and Oskar live in Berlin with their twin daughters Inge and Eva and their son Max. Oskar runs a successful diamond factory, and they live comfortably. But since it’s 1933 and their Jewish we know this won’t always be the case.
In 1933 Inge and Eva are about 16 years old, and they are each other’s most treasured companions. They have one other close friend, a girl from school named Trudy.She’s practically a member of the family and participates in all of the family actives even Shabbat, even though she isn’t Jewish.
Things start to go south for the family slowly at first. There is trouble for the girls and Max at school, restrictions on where they can and can’t go, and casual racisim from their peers. One day Eva goes to Trudy’s house to see her and Trudy’s mother won’t allow it. Trudy isn’t allowed to hang out with Jews anymore. Max gets more and more involved in the underground and resistance movements. He repeatedly tells the family that they need to get out of Germany before it gets too late. No one heeds is warnings.
Eventually Oskar is forced to sell his diamond business at an incredible loss. On his last day he smuggles out some of his most rare and special pieces so that he can support his family. He stuffs them into cream filled pastries and walks out the front door of his former business. A Nazi stops him, and takes on of the pastries. Oskar runs home, hoping that the soldier had picked one of the empty ones, but that’s not the case.
After Kristallnacht the family decides that they need to get out of Germany, like now. They are only able to get as far as Belgium, thanks to Max’s underground connections and Oskar’s smuggled diamonds. One of the people that helps them along their way is a member of the underground named Isaac. There’s a little mutual attraction thing between him and Inge but there’s not a lot of room for romance when you’re on the run from the Nazis, amirite?
They eventually get to Antwerp and are surprised by the thriving Jewish community and settle in quickly. Oskar even finds a job in a Jewish owned diamond factory and even better, he meets an associate named Carmen (a Jew who had escaped with his family from Krakow) and he has a little mutual attraction thing with Eva.
In 1940, Isaac and Inge get married, however their joy is short lived because as they are celebrating the wedding with family and friends the Nazis come rolling into town, literally, in their tanks. Not long after Belgium is invaded France and the Netherlands fall. The family realizes that they need to get all the way out of Europe if they want to survive. Carmen and Eva get married in a small, quiet ceremony behind locked doors, and the next day the family of 7 starts to make their way out of Europe.
Through much trouble and scary situations they end up in Brazil. They struggle to settle in, and find jobs. No one spoke the language so they feel increasingly isolated. In 1944, after 2 years of struggle in Rio, the family (including a pregnant Eva) decides to move to South Africa.
Things go well in Cape Town. Eva’s baby is healthy, Isaac becomes a college professor, Carmen and Oskar get back into the diamond business successfully, Max enrolls in university and things feel good. But there are rumblings in South Africa that trouble (most) of the family – apartheid.
In South Africa Max gets into trouble, an old friend makes an appearance, and the family gets to know more about the Cape Town that they don't often see....
I liked this book. I was a little scared about taking on two such weighty subjects in a 215 page book. I like that the story was based on the author's family story.I give it a 3.5. I have but one complaint about the book...
Coco Chanel said "Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory" (I'm no fan of Ms Chanel but she has a point here). I think maybe the cover art should have taken a note from this quote. I know what they are getting at, but there's a lot going on here and it's a bit distracting
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As a last note: Monique gets a virtual high five from me, because when I received my copy of the book to review, there was a lovely handwritten card tucked into the pages. The art of the thank you note is a dying one and it slays me. So snaps to her.
Monique loves writing that twitches her smiling muscles or transports her to anothertime or place. Her passion for writing began as a young girl while penning stories in a journal. Now she looks forward to deepening her passion by creating many unique stories that do nothing less than intrigue her readers.
Monique was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and her grandparents were European Jews who fled their home as Hitler rose to power. It's their story that inspired her to write Across Great Divides, her debut, historical fiction novel.
Monique holds a degree in journalism from Southern Methodist University in Dallas and is also the author of a children's book Once Upon a Time in Venice. In her free time, she loves to travel, play tennis, pursue her passion for writing, and read historical fiction.
In 2008, she was chosen by the American Jewish Committee's
ACCESS program to travel to Berlin, Germany, on the 70th anniversary of
Kristallnacht, to explore German and Israeli relations along with 20 other Jewish professionals from across the U.S.
Website - http://www.monique-roy.com
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