ARC Review: The Warsaw Orphan by Kelly Rimmer
Words cannot express how excited I was to receive a physical galley of Kelly Rimmer's highly anticipated new release, THE WARSAW ORPHAN. Rimmer's 2019 release, THE THINGS WE CANNOT SAY, was one of my favorite reads of 2020, and I know THE WARSAW ORPHAN will be on my 2021 favorites list.
In the spring of 1942, young Elzbieta Rabinek is aware of the swiftly growing discord just beyond the courtyard of her comfortable Warsaw home. She has no fondness for the Germans who patrol her streets and impose their curfews, but has never given much thought to what goes on behind the walls that contain her Jewish neighbors. She knows all too well about German brutality--and that it's the reason she must conceal her true identity. But in befriending Sara, a nurse who shares her apartment floor, Elzbieta makes a discovery that propels her into a dangerous world of deception and heroism.
Using Sara's credentials to smuggle children out of the ghetto brings Elzbieta face-to-face with the reality of the war behind its walls, and to the plight of the Gorka family, who must make the impossible decision to give up their newborn daughter or watch her starve. For Roman Gorka, this final injustice stirs him to rebellion with a zeal not even his newfound love for Elzbieta can suppress. But his recklessness brings unwanted attention to Sara's cause, unwittingly putting Elzbieta and her family in harm's way until one violent act threatens to destroy their chance at freedom forever.
From Nazi occupation to the threat of a communist regime, The Warsaw Orphan is the unforgettable story of Elzbieta and Roman's perilous attempt to reclaim the love and life they once knew.
I think it's clear just based on the synopsis that this is an emotional read. I remember sobbing uncontrollably when I read THE THINGS WE CANNOT SAY, and this one is no different. I tried to hide my tears from my husband, but I failed.
There is so much to appreciate about this book, from the strength of the characters to the unbreakable ties that bind them together. It's one of those books that grips you from the first page and doesn't let go until you've read the last word.
First, let's talk about Elzbieta—or Emilia. Her plight is unimaginable. And what's even more heartbreaking is that she has to hide who she is and what she's been through, unable to mourn her unfathomable loss out of fear that her new identity and life could be taken from her (and don't forget, she is just a teenager).
Roman—I can't even begin to imagine his pain, his fear, or his anger after everything he goes through from the start of the book until the end. His story is truly one of resilience and sheer determination. I've never read anything like it, and I've read a ton of historical fiction novels.
And then there's Sara, who from her first introduction seemed to be a character who would have a tremendous impact on the plot (spoiler alert: she does). We must never forget the unforgivable acts of the Holocaust, but stories like Sara's remind us that in the midst of unspeakable evil, there are good people who will do anything to fight for what is right.
Something that breaks my heart every time I read a book centered on the Holocaust is the hope that so many people had that things weren't as horrible as they actually were. Jewish people who were forced to live (if we can call it living) in the Warsaw ghetto truly believed that when they were being transported out of the ghetto, that their lives were going to improve. Propaganda led them to believe these lies, and sadly—hope led them to believe these lies, too. Because what else could they cling to?
There is more I could say but I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I will say this: our protagonists are young, which is a simple reminder of what so many children went through at such a young age that no one should ever have to endure. It's heartbreaking to put it in the simplest terms.
THE WARSAW ORPHAN is simply a beautifully written, well-researched story that sheds light on true events and people, as well as very real circumstances that we only wish were fiction. And anyone who reads this book will walk away feeling an immense amount of anger, but also admiration for the sheer strength and resilience of the characters
and those who endured so much at the hands of pure hatred and evil.
THE WARSAW ORPHAN will be out on June 1 in the U.S. Do yourself a favor and pre-order this from your favorite local indie bookstore (mine is Solid State DC!).
Have you read any of Kelly Rimmer's books?
**Thank you so much to Kelly Rimmer + Harper Collins/Graydon House for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own!