Danielle narrates her story by beginning with her wedding day and then flashing back to various times in her life and short marriage. She grew up in Queens in a good neighborhood with her father and brother. Her mother died when she was only 3, so her maternal grandmother played a big part in her life. When Danielle is in her late 20s, her father asks a matchmaker to help him find his daughter a suitable husband and she sets Danielle up with Jacob. Danielle is never attracted to Jacob, but she is a people pleaser and agrees to go out with him to please her father. They eventually marry and never have a very good and loving marriage. Eventually, Jacob goes too far in his domination and control of Danielle and she flees to Los Angeles to get away from him. As she is leaving on the train from Grand Central, she rides from there to Union Station in Washington, D.C. next to a nice guy named Cliff that works at the Holocaust Museum.
In the diary entries, readers find that the girl who barely survives Mauthausen in Austria is the same person as Rose, Danielle’s grandmother. After being separated from her family, she is chosen to work at the camp commandant’s home by the housekeeper named Irene. Irene is truly her savior and spares Rose from a quick death as Irene chose Rose to be her assistant at the home of the very evil commandant. Rose endures much throughout the war, and barely survives to go to the United States and raise a family with a good man.
I have no great feeling or affinity for this book, but I did not dislike it either. I read it in approximately 2 ½ days. I wanted to know how Danielle escapes from the confines of her loveless marriage. I really was engaged in reading Rose’s diary entries and how she manages to survive the commandant and camp and live a long and happy life. The character Jacob, the rapist husband, was not developed to a great extent. Readers find out that he has committed a previous crime in a previous relationship, but coming from a seemingly decent family, the reason why he acts in the ways he does is never explored. Also, I did not understand why a young lady such as Danielle, who is studying to be a lawyer, would actually follow through and marry someone as horrible as Jacob. She did not like him from the moment she met him, especially after being set up by her father. I could not relate to Danielle’s reasons to continue to stay in such a horrible relationship, and these reasons were not developed to any degree as well. I could only relate to her wanting to get away and be free of the bizarre situation she managed to find herself enmeshed.
Everything is brought together too neatly in the book. Danielle becomes an Assistant District Attorney in Los Angeles and takes on a case similar to her own story. Cliff, the guy from the train, gets a job at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in California and he and Danielle meet again and fall in love and marry. Her grandmother dies peacefully in her sleep in New York, but Danielle eventually meets her grandmother’s now 100-year-old savior, Irene. Irene, who was found out to be helping Jews in the camp, somehow is alive. I thought she would be shot or killed immediately, but maybe she wasn’t since she was not Jewish herself. We are not told of what happens to her and how she survives.
I can recommend this book, but just know there are many unanswered questions and undeveloped characters. But any story of survival against the Nazis always leaves one with hope.