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My Mother's Secret: A Novel Based on a True Holocaust Story Hardcover – September 5, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; 8.6.2013 edition (September 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399168540
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399168543
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A moving and captivating portrait.”
—Amir R. Gissin, Consulate General of Israel

“A reflection of our own era, a reminder of how far wrong we can be led…an important book.”—Joseph Kertes, author of Gratitude, winner of the Canadian Jewish Book Award

“The woman at the heart of this novel will haunt you after you read about her fearless compassion, her defiance of the odds of survival.”—Anna Porter, award-winning author of Kasztner’s Train

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

JL Witterick grew up in Canada, experiencing the multi-cultural environment which influenced her thinking about how different people can live in harmony.  She has always been interested in Holocaust stories, finding the courage of many during this period to be touching and inspirational.  She loves to write and wanted her debut novel to be meaningful.  The warm response that she has received from readers is like a dream come true.  My Mother’s Secret is a bestseller in Canada and has been published in several countries around the world.
Witterick has donated 100 percent of the advance from the book to various charities.  These include providing books for children from impoverished communities, funding for medical research, and financial support for animal shelters.  She loves all animals and considers her dog and cat to be part of her family.  Witterick hopes that by writing this story and donating the proceeds from the advance, she will have honored those known as The Righteous Among the Nations.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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One book that everyone needs to read and one book that will remind you that this really did happen.
I had a hard time getting through the book, as I do with any book that has to do with WWII and/or the Holocaust, but I think the story is an important one to be told.
Witterick reminds us that there will always be brave people in the world, even in the worst of times.
Martha Stettinius

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Spudman TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 25, 2013
Format: Paperback
Impact, significance, and inspiration don't depend on excessive description, fancy sentence structure, book length , or high brow vocabulary by an author. Rather, true sincerity, deep emotion and a well-told story can make a greater and lasting impression on a reader.

At first I found the simplicity of J.L. Witterick's "My Mother's Secret" a bit disarming which made me all the more vulnerable to the shocking events and pathos to come. The book is easy to read with its short chapters and first person narrative. It's like reading someone's personal diary, but it this case like reading four of them, all harmoniously blending and intersecting to create a story that's profound, stunning, and inspirational.

A reader might be initially confused by the sudden change in narrators, but the author's purpose quickly becomes clear, as does the kindness, strength, and selflessness of the main character.

I highly recommend this wonderful book set mostly in Poland in the dark days of WWII, one that shows the extremes of the goodness and the evil in human nature. It's a book that lingers in one's consciousness long after the last page is turned.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Grandma TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 26, 2013
Format: Paperback
All too often Holocaust literature focuses, of necessity, on the horror - horror so profound that it is almost uninmaginable. Fransiszka's story is, instead, one of hope and a story that J.L. Witterick has done a superb job of telling in My Mother's Secret: Based on a True Holocaust Story

As you may know, I have a particular interest in Holocaust literature and an insistence that it be accurate in so far as possible, so I paid a visit to Yad Vashem online. Franciszka Halamajowa and her daughter are indeed listed as Righteous Among the Nations. I also found an excellent documentary produced by some of the people whose lives Franciszka saved, No. 4 Street of Our Lady. While Witterick's story is fiction, the bones of the story are correct, though a teeny bit of literary license has been taken with some events. (The story would perhaps be too complex if it had not been.)

Franciszka Halamajowa was an exceedingly rare woman, one who put her life and the lives of her children on the line to save her Jewish neighbors when the Nazis invaded Poland during World War II. Perhaps the single most amazing thing about Franciszka is that from the day the war ended and the people that she had saved (one of them a German soldier) left the safe haven she had provided she never again talked about or even mentioned what she had done.

Simply told, highly readable, My Mother's Secret: Based on a True Holocaust Story is imminently suitable for readers of nearly all ages and would make an excellent basis for a Social Studies unit.

Highly recommended.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Dienne TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 25, 2013
Format: Paperback
J.L. Witterick tells a complex and harrowing tale of courage and silent resistance in brief, almost poetic language. Although the book is marked as "Young Adult", it would be appropriate for any children old enough to begin learning about horrors such as the Holocaust (in fact, it could be an excellent introductory text in a league with THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK), as well as being haunting and appealing for adult readers.

We are told that the book is a fictionalized account of an actual woman, Franciszka Halamajowa, and her daughter who hid fifteen Jews and one reluctant German soldier during the Nazi invasion of Poland in World War II. We are not sure how much of the book is real and how much is fiction. The fictional Franciszka saves seven Jews (and the German soldier) and has barely enough room for that many, not to mention the difficulty of procuring enough food for so many without attracting undue attention. Imagine the reality of sheltering twice that many.

The story is told in five separate sections. The first and last are told from the point of view of Helena, Franciszka's grown daughter. Helena, rather unexpectedly, finds herself mutually in love with the owner of the factory where she works as a secretary. When Casmir's father calls him home to Germany during his terminal illness, Casmir wants Helena to come with him and marry him. However, Helena, though she badly wants to go with Casmir, feels she must stay and help her mother guard her secret.

The scene shifts rather abruptly from Helena's point of view to Bronek's, leaving us a little disoriented wondering what happened to the story we had been so engrossed in.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ali Julia #1 REVIEWER#1 HALL OF FAME on April 30, 2013
Format: Paperback
It is hard to get through this book without tears in your eyes. Once I started reading it I could not put it down.

The book is inspired by the story of Franciszka Halamajowa who saved fifteen Jews by hiding them in her house for 20 months. She also hid one young German soldier defector. Before World War II Polish town of Sokol had six thousand Jews, only 30 of them survived the war. Half of them were hidden in Franciszka house. One family was hidden in the pigsty, the second family in a hole dug in under the floor boards, and the young soldier was hiding in the tiny cubby hole in the attic. None of them knew of the others until the German soldiers left Sokol in 1944.

The story is intricately weaved together from different points of view. We hear about the same events from the point of view of Franciszka's daughter, then from the point of view of the people she saved.

Why did Franciszka do it? She had no special affinity with the Jewish people. She just did what felt right. She knew that if she did not do it they would be facing certain death. She had no special affinity to German soldiers, yet she knew the young German soldier who did not want to follow orders to kill Jews was also facing death. She was just doing the decent thing. How wonderful would the world be if every person just did the decent thing?

This is a wonderful book, well told and inspirational. I am grateful to the author for sending me a review copy of the book. It moved me!

Ali Julia review
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