It is Paris, 1944. Charlotte is ripping the yellow star off her daughter Vivi’s blouse before tearing the stitching from her own. In the distant future, Charlotte will remember this moment whenever she hears the pre-flight airline directives to put your own oxygen mask on before putting on your child’s.
Charlotte, the main character, has spent her entire existence as a mother protecting her child from the cruel and haunting realities of the war. At the end of the war, the pair are released after a brief stay in a camp and make their way to New York as Jewish refugees. Charlotte is determined to leave Paris and all its haunting memories behind and begin a new life for herself and Vivi.
But as Vivi grows into her teen years she wants to know more about her father and her extended family. Despite Charlotte’s best efforts to protect and create a safe environment, Vivi’s relentlessness exposes the cracks not only in her mother’s stories but in her mother’s heart. Charlotte is not able to leave Paris behind.
This might have been just another novel in this genre, but author Ellen Feldman takes the reader on an unexpected journey, bringing a unique perspective to a well-storied era.
An excellent book club choice, the appendix includes an interview with the author. (St. Martin’s Griffin)