Book Review: The Orphan’s Tale By Pam Jenoff

THE ORPHAN’S TALE

By: Pam Jenoff

Published: February 21, 2017

Publisher: MIRA

Fiction/Historical Fiction

I first became a fan of Pam Jenoff when I read one of her short stories in the compilation, GRAND CENTRAL: Original Stories of Post-War Love and Reunion. She is also known for several other books set during war- time. Her research is impeccable and the desire to share the stories of those who suffered and lost or those who saved others during a horrible time in our history makes her one of the much-loved historical fiction authors. With her newest book, ORPHAN TALE, she tells a story of two women, unlikely to ever cross paths that now must rely on each other to survive.
Noa is kicked out of her home at 16 when her Dutch parents find out she is pregnant by a Nazi soldier. The orphanage she lives in takes her baby immediately after birth promising her he’ll be sent to a good family. Lost and alone she works cleaning a train station until fleeing after witnessing something she will never be able to erase from her mind. Astrid is served divorce papers from her German soldier when he is forced to kick her out because she is a Jew. Astrid grew up in the circus but after leaving her family home to get married, she returns to her home overtaken by the Germans and her family gone. She is forced to go to the competing circus to ask for a job and most importantly, to be hidden.  After a cold winter night, Noa and Astrid are forced to work together and eventually their lives depend not only on the circus staying alive during the war, but sharing the secrets they’ve hidden from each other.
In one of my favorite writing styles, Jenoff writes the chapters from Noa’s or Astrid’s voice. This format always helps me read faster because I have to know what happens and understand the other character’s perspective. This war-time setting is mostly the circus train and then the fairgrounds where it sets up camp to perform in various villages between Germany and France. We are also given some flashbacks to life before the war for many of the characters offering a glimpse of who they were and what brought them to the circus life. I had no idea the circus would have still been allowed while the travesties of WWII were taking place. Thankfully, many people were saved because of their role in the circus and others were hidden from the Nazi officers and kept safe. The friendships made while depending on the circus created a family for many of them that had nothing else to hold on to.

Even though the stories of these two women are fictional, Jenoff has based them off of true stories she was told and then let her imagination take us on an emotional trip back in time. Jenoff served as a US Diplomat in Poland and her time working with Holocaust survivors profoundly affected her. This is her chance to share their stories so we don’t forget. Every WWII story I read leaves me feeling sad, yet grateful and inspired by those who were willing to sacrifice food, family, and safety to help others in need. These stories offer readers a reminder that even during the most horrible times, there was always a way to find the good in others. But, unfortunately, many places in this novel will rip your heart out as there was so much suffering and tragedy. Jenoff writes a riveting, heartbreaking, and memorable story that is sure to make many top book lists for 2017.  
Favorite quote:
“We cannot change who we are. 
Sooner or later we will all have to face ourselves.”


Pam Jenoff – source
Pam Jenoff was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge University in England. Upon receiving her master’s in history from Cambridge, she accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The position provided a unique opportunity to witness and participate in operations at the most senior levels of government, including helping the families of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims secure their memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, observing recovery efforts at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and attending ceremonies to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of World War II at sites such as Bastogne and Corregidor.

Following her work at the Pentagon, Jenoff moved to the State Department. In 1996 she was assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Krakow, Poland. It was during this period that Pam developed her expertise in Polish-Jewish relations and the Holocaust. Working on matters such as preservation of Auschwitz and the restitution of Jewish property in Poland, Jenoff developed close relations with the surviving Jewish community.

Having left the Foreign Service in 1998 to attend law school at the University of Pennsylvania, Jenoff is now employed as an attorney in Philadelphia.

For more on Pam Jenoff, visit her website, HERE.
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Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to purchase this book through the above link, I may receive a small comission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting SincerelyStacie.com.  
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