Most of this book takes place in Germany in 1944, with the narration alternating between the first person accounts of Noa and Astrid.
Noa is just 16, and working as a railroad station cleaner after having been kicked out of her home in the Netherlands. She had gotten pregnant by a Nazi soldier, and had to give up her baby in a home for unwed mothers, but she still mourns over the lost child. One freezing night at the station she sees a railcar full of Jewish babies, most of whom are dead. But one is not, and she impulsively grabs him and runs away with him. But it is cold and eventually she passes out.
She is rescued by Peter, a clown at the Circus Neuhoff. He and his girlfriend Astrid bring in Noa and the baby, but in order not to arouse suspicion, Noa must learn to be a circus performer. Astrid looks very “Aryan,” but the baby, Theo, is circumcised, and the Nazis must not learn he is Jewish. Astrid, who is a trapeze artist, reluctantly agrees to try to train Noa.
Though the two begin as wary adversaries, they eventually become as close as sisters. But Astrid has secrets of her own, and even Peter has something extra to fear from the Nazis.
Danger closes in, and the tension mounts. Even though the war is almost over, no one knows that yet of course, and it seems increasingly likely all of them might not make it safely to its conclusion.
Evaluation: This story is both heartwarming and terrifying. The author reveals in an Afterword that she based the main elements of the plot on real events from the Nazi era. The story of the circuses at that time is a fascinating one, as is her revelation of this circus’s greatest feat.
As with Jenoff’s previous books, this is one you won’t want to miss.
Published by Mira Books, a division of Harlequin, 2017