Book Review: The Living and the Lost, by Ellen Feldman

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.
  • Genre:   Fiction, historical
  • Rating:  4 out of 5

Millie Mosbach and her brother David escaped to the United States just before Kristallnacht, leaving their parents and little sister in Berlin. Now they are both back in their former hometown, haunted by ghosts and hoping against hope to find their family. Millie works in the office responsible for rooting out the most dedicated Nazis from publishing. Like most of their German-born American colleagues, the siblings suffer from rage at Germany and guilt at their own good fortune. Only Millie’s boss, Major Harry Sutton, seems strangely eager to be fair to the Germans.

Living and working in bombed-out Berlin, a latter day Wild West where the desperate prey on the unsuspecting; spies ply their trade; black markets thrive, and forbidden fraternization is rampant, Millie must come to terms with a past decision made in a moment of crisis, and with the enigmatic sometimes infuriating Major Sutton who is mysteriously understanding of her demons. Atmospheric and page-turning, The Living and the Lost is a story of survival, love, and forgiveness, of others and of self.

Millie was hard and unlikable enough at the beginning that I almost stopped reading, but she grew on me. This was set in post-WWII Berlin and offered a different view of the war—from someone who escaped before it got very, very bad, but who nonetheless did not escape unscathed. Solid writing and characters, and I enjoyed how all of them had such different layers. They weren’t all just one thing. That made for a nuanced and complex read, perfect for savoring.

Ellen Feldman lives in New York. The living and the Lost is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

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