What they're saying...

"Heartbreaking and poignant with a touching, positive conclusion." - Kirkus Reviews
"Gripping." - Booklist

Devorah and her younger sister, Nechama, have lost their uncle to war, their parents to hunger, overwork, and disease, and their remaining aunt to a Cossack sword in a bloody pogrom. Nonetheless, they are luckier than most Jewish orphans during the brutal post World War I years in Poland, because they have been selected to accompany philanthropist Isaac Ochberg to an orphanage in South Africa where some two hundred displaced children will find shelter. Nechama, who is both more adventurous and prone to cope with trauma through denial, embraces the opportunity, while Devorah, grieving and suspicious, hovers over her little sister protectively and can scarcely allow herself to accept, much less enjoy, the opportunities for safe harbor, ample food, and a good education that the move has afforded them. When pretty, lively Nechama is adopted by a well-to-do family, Devorah sinks deeper into anger and resentment, and even her own adoption by a kind, if somewhat eccentric, older couple is a blessing it will take her years to appreciate. Devorah’s narration alternates between flashbacks to life in the sisters’ Polish village of Domachevo and their later experiences as orphans, and both tales are equally touching and engrossing; her observations of the way black South Africans are accorded underclass status within their own country leads to provocative comparisons with her own sudden class reversal as a member of a relatively privileged white community. Concluding notes comment on the real Lehrman sisters and Ochberg, on whom the story is based, and a glossary of Hebrew and Yiddish words is included. EB