Publication Date: November 2015
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ARC Copy from Thomas Nelson and The Fiction Guild
The Girl from the Train is a very compelling story that begins in April, 1944 when 6 year old Gretl Schmidt drops from a transport train headed to Auschwitz. She is found by Jakob Kowlaski, a young Polish rebel, whose life will become intrinsically linked to hers over the course of the next fifteen years. Gretl’s family connections put her in a precarious position and force Jakob to lie about her background in order to keep her safe. Eventually Jakob must consider his family first and surrender Gretl to a German orphanage.
Gretl learns from an early age to contend with loss, suffering, and prejudice in order to survive. Jakob does the best he can given the situation under which he is operating to take care of the girl. He reads about a program in Germany where the orphans are sent to South Africa to be adopted. He preps Gretl with documents and stories that make it possible for Gretl to become part of the program.
The novel continues Gretl’s life story once she gets to South Africa in alternating chapters with Jakob’s story as he lives through the turmoil following the war and the onslaught of communism in Poland. The historical detail is very interesting, covering different aspects of World War II than many traditional historical novels. The religious and ethnic prejudices encountered in this novel are very vivid.
The personalities of the characters are complex and appealing. Gretl develops over the course of the novel from a scared, but strong six year old to an engaging, resilient young woman. Jakob, almost 14 years older than Gretl, gains maturity and insight into politics and the broader world as he survives the war, communism, and a loss of his home country.
This book has depth and emotion. The suffering, prejudice, and secrets keep the reader engaged. A fascinating book with great perspective! Outstanding novel for readers of historical fiction!
This ARC copy was received from Thomas Nelson and Zondervan’s Fiction Guild challenge in exchange for an honest review. The above thoughts and opinions are wholly my own.