The story of two women who form an unlikely friendship in Nazi Germany, The Orphan’s Tale is told in first person point-of-view by 16-year-old Noa and 39-year-old Astrid.
Noa works at a small rail station in Bensheim as a cleaner. As part of her compensation she is allowed to live in a small room above the station. She finds herself her because her father forced her from their home in the Netherlands when he learned of her pregnancy by a German soldier. After making her way to a home for unwed mothers in Germany, Noa’s child is taken from her, leaving her bereft. Thus, when she discovers a boxcar full of Jewish babies on their way to a concentration camp, she doesn’t hesitate. She reaches into the middle of the boxcar and pulls out a child. It’s a boy; so like the child taken from her. But she must hurry and get them both away from the German-controlled train station before they are discovered. Throughout the night they struggle through the forest until the cold and exhaustion overcame them.
Astrid, once married to a respected young German soldier, is turned out by him when the Reich determines that marriage to a Jew is unlawful. She returns to her family home only to find it occupied by Germans. Herr Neuhoff, her neighbor and owner of a rival circus, hires Astrid based on her being a working member of the circus once owned by her family. She is an expert aerialist.
When Noa and baby Theo arrive at the Neuhoff circus they are welcomed and begin their life of hiding in plain sight . But even as Noa learns to become an aerialist she fears for Theo who is a Jew. It soon becomes evident to Noa that the circus is hiding more Jewish folks than just Astrid and Theo.
Along the way both women find love and in their efforts to stay alive and someday escape Nazi control, form a grudging friendship. A surprising twist at the conclusion gives the reader that Oh-My-God! moment.
The Orphans’ Tale is a well-written and well-researched historical fiction novel that will keep you reading well-past your bedtime. Full of suspense as well as an intricate romance, this one is a keeper. The characters are fully nuanced and the descriptions place the reader in the middle of the action – from the swinging trapeze to the swinging mood prevalent in the country, this is a seemingly accurate portrayal of life under the Third Reich.
Rating: 5 stars