Saturday, February 9, 2013

My Enemy's Cradle by Sara Young

Cyrla's neighbors have begun to whisper. Her cousin, Anneke, is pregnant and has passed the rigorous exams for admission to the Lebensborn, a maternity home for girls carrying German babies. But Anneke's soldier has disappeared, and Lebensborn babies are only ever released to their father's custody-- or taken away. A note is left under the mat. Someone knows that Cyrla, sent from Poland years before for safekeeping with her Dutch relatives, is Jewish. The Nazis are imposing more and more restrictions; she won't be safe there for long. And then in the space of an afternoon, life falls apart. Cyrla must choose between certain discovery in her cousin's home and taking Anneke's place in the Lebensborn-- Cyrla and Anneke are nearly identical. If she takes refuge in the enemy's lair, can Cyrla fool the doctors, nurses, guards, and other mothers-to-be? Can she escape before they discover she is not who she claims? Mining a lost piece of history, Sara Young takes us deep into the lives of women living in the worst of times. Part love story and part elegy for the terrible choices we must often make to survive, MY ENEMY'S CRADLE keens for what we lose in war and sings for the hope we sometimes find.

My take: 3.5 looks
This was a very easy book to read. And yet, it was a very difficult story to take in. The writing was exceptional, drawing me in from the beginning. The characters were very sympathetic and real and the situations in which each found themselves were harrowing.

I had no idea that there truly were Lebensborn facilities during the war; but it makes perfect sense, knowing what we now know about how the Nazi regime thought and worked. The fact that these women had a place to go for excellent care and safety was a good thing, but the fact that many of these children were taken from the beginning to be raised as potential soldiers seemed as cold as a munitions factory. I was also saddened by the lack of physical contact for the babies, and wonder how that affected those who survived the war into adulthood.

I liked the characters immediately. Of course, Anneke and Cyrla were irritating as almost all late-teen girls are. They were perhaps to little too naive and full of wanderlust for the tone of the story, especially given Anneke's mother and father's stern dispositions, and Cyrla's difficult past. I would have thought that, realistically, they would have been more subdued and in touch with the reality of war. I became irritated over and and over by Cyrla's persistent refusal to see the danger she was in.

Karl and Isaac were excellent characters on both sides of the spectrum. One loving and forthright, a Nazi soldier. The other a Jew, but very stoic and stiff with people.

This was a very humanizing story and intriguing part of history that I want to learn more about. A great read, and highly recommended.  

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