From Publishers Weekly
In this powerful novel from award-winning Israeli writer Appelfeld, two discarded souls form an unlikely bond in the chaos of occupied Ukraine during WWII. When the Jews are being rounded up, 11-year-old Hugo's mother hides him with her childhood friend, Mariana, a prostitute in a brothel. Locked in a closet every night, Hugo hears Mariana at work and disappears into dreams and visions about his family and friends. Mariana takes loving if sporadic care of Hugo and slowly she becomes Hugo's whole world. Hugo returns Mariana's kindness by lifting her spirits as her moods swing from frivolity and disregard for the destruction around her to deep depression about the indignities she endures. Mariana is an exhilarating tragicomic heroine, a woman who is both alcoholic, manic-depressive, and believer in a God she long ago abandoned. The lean, spare prose does not shy away from harsh realities. A simple story that encapsulates the joy and sadness of a coming-of-age novel with the trauma of a world in the midst of destruction. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The latest from acclaimed Israeli novelist Appelfeld is a haunting tale of love, loss, and the resilience of the human spirit. When the Nazis begin to infiltrate the ghetto where 11-year-old Hugo lives, his mother has no choice but to leave him with her childhood friend Mariana, a prostitute in the local brothel. During the day Hugo is confined to Mariana’s room, and at night he must stay silent, locked in her closet. As he listens to Mariana and the Nazi soldiers who visit, he clings to the fading memories of his family. Though Mariana is an alcoholic, prone to mood swings and abrupt disappearances, she is fiercely protective of Hugo and attentive to his needs. And as Hugo begins to come of age, he becomes more and more attached to Mariana, with an increasing desire to act as her caregiver and protector. When the prostitutes suddenly depart the brothel after the arrival of the Russian army, the two have no choice but to flee themselves, leading to a conclusion both grim and elegantly hopeful. --Leah Strauss