Title: Once We Were Home
Author: Jennifer Rosner
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
When your past is stolen, where do you belong?
Ana will never forget her mother’s face when she and her baby brother, Oskar, were sent out of their Polish ghetto and into the arms of a Christian friend. For Oskar, though, their new family is the only one he remembers. When a woman from a Jewish reclamation organization seizes them, believing she has their best interest at heart, Ana sees an opportunity to reconnect with her roots, while Oskar sees only the loss of the home he loves.
Roger grows up in a monastery in France, inventing stories and trading riddles with his best friend in a life of quiet concealment. When a relative seeks to retrieve him, the Church steals him across the Pyrenees before relinquishing him to family in Jerusalem.
Renata, a post-graduate student in archaeology, has spent her life unearthing secrets from the past–except for her own. After her mother’s death, Renata’s grief is entwined with all the questions her mother left unanswered, including why they fled Germany so quickly when Renata was a little girl.
Two decades later, they are each building lives for themselves, trying to move on from the trauma and loss that haunts them. But as their stories converge in Israel, in unexpected ways, they must each ask where and to whom they truly belong.
I do love World War II historical fiction, but this was an aspect of that period I’d never read about before. What a horrible thing for children to face! The heart wrenching things these children experienced were deftly and evocatively portrayed. I enjoyed the stories of the different children and how everything came together, but I felt like Renata’s story was left almost completely unresolved—and part of Roger’s as well.
Jennifer Rosner lives in Massachusetts. Once We Were Home is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Flatiron Books in exchange for an honest review.)