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Summary

From the author of Blind, a heart-wrenching coming-of-age story set during World War II in Shanghai, one of the only places Jews without visas could find refuge.

Warsaw, Poland. The year is 1940, and Lillia is 15 when her mother, Alenka, disappears and her father flees with Lillia and her younger sister, Naomi, to Shanghai, one of the few places that will accept Jews without visas. There, they struggle to make a life; they have no money, there is little work, no decent place to live, a culture that doesn't understand them. And always the worry about Alenka. How will she find them? Is she still alive?  

Meanwhile, Lillia is growing up, trying to care for Naomi, whose development is frighteningly slow, in part from malnourishment. Lillia finds an outlet for her artistic talent by making puppets, remembering the happy days in Warsaw when her family members were circus performers. She attends school sporadically, makes friends with Wei, a Chinese boy, and finds work as a performer at a "gentlemen's club" without her father's knowledge.

But meanwhile, the conflict grows more intense as the Americans declare war and the Japanese force the Americans in Shanghai into camps. More bombing, more death. Can they survive, caught in the crossfire?

©2019 Rachel Dewoskin (P)2019 Listening Library

Critic reviews

"DeWoskin explores a rarely depicted topic.... A beautifully nuanced exploration of culture and people." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

"An unusual portrait of what war does to families in general and children in particular...affirms the human need for art and beauty in hard times." (Booklist, starred review)

"A provocative exploration of what resilience means when you’re pushed to the edge." (BCCB)

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  • Scott P
  • 24-07-19

Wow!!!

The headline captures my feelings about this book. As a Jewish American resident of Shanghai (14 years and counting) whose wife and daughter are Chinese (well, dual citizen in the case of my daughter), I listened with great interest and expectation. I was not disappointed in the least. Again, wow!

1 person found this helpful