Monday, July 27, 2009

This one goes in my top 10

I just finished the most wonderful book. It's called Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. I picked it up at a used bookstore on their new arrivals shelf a little over a week ago. Augusten Burroughs (one of my absolute favorite writers) was quoted on the front of the book saying "A shocking, profoundly moving, and morally challenging story...nothing short of miraculous. It will haunt you, it will help to complete you..."

And my goodness, he was right.

This book takes place in the present day Paris and in Paris 1942 during the capture of thousands of Jewish people by the French police. The past is told through a 10 year old Jewish girl's eyes. Her questioning and her need for safety and family breaks your heart. The present day narrator is an American woman named Julia who married into a French family and she is an American journalist for a French paper.

The little girl is named Sarah and when the French police come to take her family she hides her little brother in a cupboard locked with a key, because she thinks they will be back shortly to get him. Her parents are sent to Auschwitz. And she escapes from a children's camp and makes it back to Paris with the help of a couple who find her in their fields. The only thing this poor little girl can focus on is getting back to save her brother. It is such a simple need, a simple want. But it makes you ache inside, with the knowledge that adults have and the underlying tones of what happened to her brother.

The journalist is Julia and through writing a piece about the building that housed the Jews before they were sent to the camps, she discovers that her family is connected to Sarah. Her family became a small but shockingly important part of Sarah's life. Julia goes to deep levels to find out all she can of Sarah. Where she went after she came home to find her brother, what kind of woman she became, if she was happy.

The whole book is written with a sense incompleteness. The lives that were intertwined through a series of events just keep on moving, keep on changing. There is a conclusion, the book ends. But like many moments in life you are left wanting more. Wanting one more hug, one more reason, one more explanation. But life doesn't stop to satisfy those needs. It keeps rolling whether we want it to or not. This author did a wonderful job of pulling me in. Making my heart sob for these characters, making me want to embrace them and wash their sorrows away.

Read it. The reviewers were right. It will change your life.

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