Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

The Lost Wife

Posted by nliakos on March 14, 2015

by Alyson Richman (Berkley Books, 2011; ISBN 978-0-425-24413-5)

The Lost Wife is the story of Jozef and Lenka, Czech Jews who fall in love and marry in the months before Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia. The book describes the descent into hell of the Czech Jews. Jozef and his family manage to flee the country, but Lenka refuses to leave her parents and younger sister; she is deported to Terezín and then to Auschwitz but ultimately survives because the Nazis want to use her skill as an artist. But Lenka, pregnant with Jozef’s child, believes that Jozef and his family all perished when their ship is torpedoed; while in New York, Jozef does not give up the hope that Lenka has somehow survived the Holocaust until he learns of her transfer to Auschwitz and probably demise in the gas chambers. Jozef eventually marries a fellow refugee and has two children, but memories of Lenka continue to haunt him. After the liberation of Auschwitz, Lenka marries an American soldier; they also have a child. Their children’s children eventually marry each other, and Jozef and Lenka, now in their eighties, meet again at the wedding. I am not spoiling anything for you; the book opens with this meeting and then flashes back to their separate stories.

Even though Jozef and Lenka are fictional characters, their story is the story of many innocent people going about their lives, until they couldn’t any more because of the Nazi evil (there is no other word for it). Several of the characters in the book really lived and died as described here, and Richman got the idea for her story when she heard about a chance meeting at a wedding of two real people who had been married before the war but thought they had lost each other, just like the protagonists in the story.

I cried a lot while reading this!

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