Monday, June 13, 2016

Mindful Monday: Lilac Girls




Lilac Girls, the debut novel by Martha Hall Kelly, takes place over the years of the late 1920s to the late 1950s. This moving work of historical fiction takes us deep into the devastation of not only countries, homes, and terrain, but much more intimately of the individuals who suffered through the horrors of German occupation during WWII.

One of the stories follows Kasia, a Polish teenager, as she attempts to survive life in Ravensbruck, the all women's concentration camp, especially after she is forced to undergo agonizing experimental operations and is left permanently damaged. One of 74 women to undergo these horrifying medical experiments that left several dead, and most others scarred or disabled for the rest of their lives, these women came to be known throughout the camp as "The Rabbits", one because many of them could only hop in order to get around, but also because they were the human manifestation of laboratory rabbits.

Meanwhile in America, Caroline is desperately trying to keep displaced French families together, stay in contact with those left in occupied France and care for the thousands of French orphans, even after the French consulate id officially dissolved in New York.

Herta, a woman aching to practice medicine after fighting to get her medical degree is finally offered a position, but what will this new position ask of her, mean for her, and for her native Germany?

This book appealed to me first because of it being from the point of view from three different women, from entirely different walks of life, countries and cultures even, whose lives intersected in ways none of them ever could have imagined. 

Based on real life women, Caroline and Herta, as well as a compilation of real women brought to life through fictitious Kasia, we are given much more than a glimpse into the struggles and day to day lives of these women. Their stories are ones that changed history. Not every choice they made was right nor easy. We are reminded that not everyone gets a happily ever after. Sometimes, we just get an after. 

But we are also reminded that we have choices. We can fight in our own way against injustices. We can keep trying even when things seem hopeless. We can let our past shape us for the worse or for the better, and we can decide to let it rule us or we it. Above all, we can still love, even in the worst of circumstances.

There were multiple parts that brought tears to my eyes. Multiple parts that made my skin crawl, or stomach turn. The truths of camp life are grotesque, yet those men and women did their best to remain dignified. 

Rating: RD  (Reader Discretion due to some language, sexual encounters, and historical elements of life in a concentration camp.)

AWBB Points: ! ! ! ! !   5/5

I recieved a free electronic copy of this book for the purpose of review. All thoughts and expressions contained in this post are entirely my own.

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