“The Lost Wife” was much more than just another novel set during WWII. The love of Lenka and Josef springs to life despite the stifling restrictions being placed on Jews by the Nazi regime. Lenka’s devotion to her family causes her to forego a ticket to America with her new husband, Josef, in order to remain with her family in war-torn Europe. The book bounced between Lenka’s experience during WWII and Josef’s life in present day New York. This format worked well here because it portrayed the heartache Lenka felt having remained in Europe without Josef, and the impact losing Lenka in the holocaust had on Josef’s life. So much residual pain from the events of WWII permeated Josef’s life, and it was clear this pain is mostly a result of a life without Lenka. Despite her absence, she was with him in almost everything he did.
Lenka’s life takes an obvious path for a Jew in Europe, leading her and her family to the Jewish Ghetto. By having Lenka be an artist, the author capitalized on a rarely discussed aspect of the holocaust, art. The ghetto was portrayed through Lenka’s artist eyes where she processes the horrors there through the colors, lights, and contours. These elements became the focus in a creative way. While in the Ghetto, Lenka used her artistic ability to becoming an artist for the Third Reich, where she draws cards and other paintings. This not only spares her from dangerous labor jobs, but allows her to spread joy to the children and document the atrocities she witnessed. Based on many true events and real survivors, the author combined their experiences to create a cohesive and amazingly accurate piece of literature. Simply put, the writing was superb.
I read this novel in one day and couldn’t put it down. The novel was moving and evoked a gamut of emotion. Though it is a tough subject, this book was worth the read.