Review by Leah Cooper
After hearing Alyson Richman describe the real incident that inspired her historical novel, The Lost Wife, I rushed to the event book seller, only to find there were no copies available for purchase. About a week later, I happened to see a copy of ‘The Lost Wife’ on display by the circulation desk at Jefferson Carnegie Library. I immediately checked it out and was soon immersed in pre-World War II Prague and the developing love between Lenka and Josef.
The book starts at the end, with the grandfather of the groom seated next to the grandmother of the bride at the rehearsal dinner in New York City in the year 2000. The grandfather senses he has met the grandmother before. After seeing her wrist, with a small brown birthmark next to six tattooed numbers, he states, “Lenka, it’s me. Josef. Your husband.”
With that intro, the reader is swept back to the calm of prewar Prague, where Lenka, a young art student, and Josef, a medical student, are falling in love. They soon marry, but their dreams of a life together are shattered by the imminent Nazi invasion. They plan to emigrate to America, but only Josef escapes. Believing Lenka has died in the war, Josef becomes a successful obstetrician in America and marries again, but never forgets his first wife. Lenka, though, manages to survive the Nazi ghetto of Terezín, thanks in part to her art skills and memories of Josef.
Richman weaves a fascinating and compelling tale of the glamour and ease of life in Prague before the Nazi occupation and of the horrors that follow the arrival of the Nazis. But you will have to get to the Epilogue to find out how the grandmother responds to Josef ’s shocking statement in the opening chapter.
Dianne H. Patterson has an excellent review of ‘The Lost Wife’, entitled ‘A Very Different Love Story/A Very Different Holocaust Book,’ published on the PRIMEWOMAN website: “She uses her research skills, artist’s eye and poet’s appreciation for phrasing to capture both the extreme highs and the lows of the human spirit while enduring the Holocaust’s extraordinary conditions. She wrenched the sadness but also the strength of the trials of the Terezin survivors…Alyson manages all this with beauty and balance…quite a feat when you realize that the book ends with a message that is uplifting and very encouraging.”
Drop by Jefferson Carnegie Library to check out ‘The Lost Wife’ and see for yourself why I highly recommend this novel.
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