My heart is broken and my eyes should be swollen. This book may as well have brought me to tears - happy tears, horrified tears, agonized tears - with how much it crushed my heart and delighted me. Only to crush my heart again. It is a veritable roller-coaster of raw, real emotion, and beauty, and pain. Lots of pain. But it's completely worth my emotional trauma because of how beautiful it is.
For Such a Time, written by Kate Breslin, is an allegory for the story of Esther. Each chapter begins with a verse from the book of Esther that somehow will apply to the following pages. Chapter one introduces Stella Muller - which, we quickly discover, is a pseudonym from a set of false papers for a Hadassah Benjamin. And she is locked in a small chalet bedroom, trembling for fear, fearing for her life with each breath, communicating her terror with awful memories and inescapable emotion. She is fresh out of the Dachau concentration camp, a victim of Nazi brutality, saved directly from a firing squad line-up. Wondering why she wasn't shot; why she was "saved", if she was saved at all, or if she was only rescued from one evil to become entangled with another by the name of SS Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt. He pulls her from the line-up, hides her in his cousin's home, and then comes to take her to his residence, employed as his secretary, outside the walls of the transit camp he oversees - Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia. Her Aryan looks save her from overbearing scrutiny, and her Nazi employer keeps her from the camps, but her Jewish roots embalm her in lies that, every second, she fears will unravel. And the interest that the Kommandant has for her only keeps her more on edge.
The edge of danger in this story is so sharp and crisp and clear, on each and every page, never giving a moment's peace. The only time I put this book down was when the emotions were too much for me and I needed a moment to breathe and remind myself that I was, really, just reading a book. It does go into some gruesome detail about the Holocaust and the horrors there, and I would not recommend this to the faint-at-heart or those more sensitive to brutality.
This book is so brutally well-written. The emotions and characters, so painfully raw and captivating. Her prose is littered with German and Yiddish words and phrases, for the language lovers. Her plot is intertwined with strands of beautiful romance, for the hopeless romantics (tastefully done). And every inch of every page - every word of every phrase - is utterly captivating.
Stella Muller - Hadassah Benjamin - you break my heart.
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