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February 2, 2020

The Light After the War by Anita Abriel ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

I read a lot of WWII fiction as a teen and young adult. A lot of the stories were about Jews in concentration camps but the story always ended with the liberation of the camps, which disappointed me greatly. I wanted to know what happened after the survived the atrocities. How do you return to a life where practically everyone you knew is dead? The Light After the War focuses completely on life after the war for two teenagers who escaped the train to Auschwitz.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

February 2020; Atria Books; 978-1982122973
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); historical fiction
The story begins in 1946 when two young women, Vera Frankel and Edith Frankel, arrive in Naples, Italy. At 18, they are barely adults, but each other is all they have left. Edith's father had abandoned the family before the war. Vera's father had been sent to a labor camp when she was 14 and has not been heard from since. Vera, Edith, and their mothers Alice and Lily lived in Budapest before being sent to the Jewish Ghetto and finally onto Auschwitz. It was late in the war by that point and Alice knew their only hope was to escape the train, but there was only time for Vera and Edith to jump. These girls, best friends since birth, survived the last year or so by hiding (and helping) on a farm in Austria. After the war, when it was thought that their parents were dead, an American officer suggested they relocate to Naples. It is there that the girls begin to put together a life they never imagined they would be navigating alone.

I was immediately drawn to Vera and Edith. The girls are likable and what they endured and continued to overcome is amazing. It was hard to believe at times that they were so young. Of the two, Edith retained the flightiness of a teenager - seeking love, admiration, fun, and fulfilling dreams. Vera, on the other hand, understood they needed jobs in order to survive. The Goodreads summary states that the book is based on a true story.

The descriptions of the places, food, and people make you feel like you are on the journey with Vera and Edith as they live in Naples, then travel to Ellis Island and onto Caracas, Venezuela and finally to Sydney, Australia. Throughout the story, you can't help but root for the girls. You want Edith to succeed at her dream of becoming a fashion designer and you hope that Vera will find her first love American diplomat Anton Wight. You feel their disappointments as keenly as if they are your own.

As Alessandra states in the novel, people need to study history, literature, and culture in order to empathy and that it is only through empathy that atrocities such as the Holocaust will never happen again. Abriel does a wonderful job of stirring empathy in the reader for Vera and Edith and by extension all those who suffered. And it wasn't in an overly preachy way or as if she is trying to make a statement about current political affairs. It is how empathy should be  - seeing an individual and feeling their plight as if it is your own.

As the reader can see themselves as Gina, Marcus, Paolo, Signora Rosa, Lola, or Captian Bingham - characters who befriend the girls and want them to succeed, it is difficult to put the book down. You want to know what happens to the girls. When they are stranded on Ellis Island after their sponsor dies from a freak heart attack the day they arrived, you wonder will they be sent back to Europe where death follows them everywhere. (As Edith says, their loved ones didn't die once but keeping dying as they first believe the person is dead but then, perhaps years later, they get confirmation that the person is indeed dead).

I read this book in two days as the story flows so well, but I haven't stopped thinking about Vera and Edit. It is almost like I expect a letter from one of them to catch me up on their lives. That's how real these characters became to me.

If you love stories about the unbreakable human spirit, strong women who survived hardships that most people can never fully imagine living through, and entertains, then you definitely need to pick up The Light After the War. It will join the ranks of The Nightingale and All the Light We Cannot See as a must-read epic historical novel. Don't miss it!

Buy The Light After the War at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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