Book Review of Only by Blood

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Author: Renate Krakauer

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Only by Blood is not just another Holocaust survival story. The author has crafted a clever mystery. She writes parallel stories about the two main characters, setting up for their inevitable meeting. The reader can glean that the two protagonists are related—the truth playing hide-and-seek between the lines. Only towards the end does the author reveal the specifics of this relationship.

Marnia, the modern-day doctor living in Poland, is bent on learning about her roots because of her mother’s dying wish urging her to “find them…make it right.” Her mother’s plea, uttered with her dying breath cannot be ignored. Her own curiosity regarding the secrecy that shrouds her childhood, leads her to embark on a journey of discovery that will take her from Poland to Canada.

Roza is a young mother who endures and survives the Nazi regime in Poland during World War II. Her journey to save her infant daughter is one that no mother should have to make. Forced into hiding during the war, Roza encounters and overcomes seemingly insurmountable trials and tribulations. Miraculously she survives, as does her daughter, Hanka. Together with her husband, the three migrate to Toronto, Canada.

As layer upon layer of both women’s stories are peeled back, it becomes clear that they are somehow connected, and that the relationship dates back to the war years. But the connection seems elusive, at least for this reader, and the exposition when it comes is satisfying. Of course, when I finished reading the book, I wanted to go back and find the bread crumbs that the author had left throughout the book.

The novel is beautifully written. One can’t help but feel sad for the torturous experiences of the Holocaust survivors. The appalling cruelty that one human being can inflict upon another while under the influence of corrupt power is beyond comprehension. One would think that that we would have learned from history to be more compassionate and to never subject another person to those types of brutal behaviour. But the sad reality is that although the world has changed since the Holocaust, war is still a way of life in many regions and people continue to perpetrate hateful acts.

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