If not for World War II, six year old Gretl Schmidt and Jakob Kowalski, would probably not have met. The Girl From the Train, by Irma Joubert, opens in Poland in 1944. Jakob is a member of the Polish resistance and his mission is to plant a bomb on a bridge in order to destroy German train carrying troops. He completes his mission, but the train that reaches the bomb is not the one he expected. Instead, an unscheduled train carrying Jews to a concentration camp is blown up just after Gretl jumped off the train. Jakob finds Gretl in the woods and so their relationship begins. He takes her home to his Catholic family knowing he can not tell them she is Jewish. Neither had any idea of how long they would actually have to keep this secret. Gretl and Jakob eventually painfully part ways knowing it is not likely they will ever see each other again. However, their bond is forever.
The Girl From the Train is Gretl and Jakob’s story. Life takes these two fascinating characters from Poland to South Africa. This is an intricately structured story about those who try to come to terms with loss and change. The characters are deep and complex. They both face life altering challenges and all the while they continue to keep secrets. Tragedy casts a shadow over Gretl’s life and there comes a time when she has to deal with it. Will the outcome finally bring her peace?
This is a beautifully told story which is filled with hope, love and faith. Highly recommended.
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