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Set in Poland during WWII, this richly detailed historical novel for adults narrates the stories of twin sisters Antonina and Helena Dabrowska, residents of Warsaw, the capital city.

Though the 17-year-old sisters had known hardship—their mother died when they were young and their father had enlisted in the Polish Army to fight the Germans—nothing could have prepared them for the terror, deprivation and indignity of living under German occupation. Antonina and Helena look on in horror as German forces slowly, then relentlessly assault the Jewish population, finally creating within the city limits a walled-in ghetto for Jews.

When Antonina learns that Marek, the man she loves, has been forced into the ghetto along with his family, she risks her life to bring them supplies. Behind the ghetto walls she sees a world beyond imagining: “What sort of mad universe was this where children begged for bread and corpses lay like refuse in the streets?”

As children, Antonina and Helena’s father had taught them that “if a man is drowning, you cannot simply stand on the shore and pity him. You must dive into the water and try to pull him out, even if you cannot swim, or else how can you call yourself a human being?” Now, remembering their father’s exhortation, Antonina and Helena each make choices that involve great danger and lead to a devastating rift in their relationship. Antonina becomes involved in an underground network of people who smuggle Jewish children out of the ghetto to relocate them to safer places. At the same time, Helena is drawn to serve in Poland’s secret army.

Author Amanda Barratt offers readers a vast portrait—geographically, physically and emotionally—of what war does to nations, to interpersonal relationships, and to individuals. Also, she deftly explores the spiritual landscape of war—how it might cause people to turn away from God, how it could force people to reconsider their closest relationships, and how it might throw people on the mercy of God as they seek God with renewed desperation and fervor.


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