Karolina’s Twins – Ronald H. Balson

4 stars

 

Historical fiction, you truly have my heart. 3.5 stars rounded up for Karolina’s Twins because I just love historical fiction that much. The writing itself was average but any time there is a touching story of a Holocaust survivor, I will always base my rating off of that regardless if the writing is sub-par. Loosely based on Holocaust survivor Fay Scharf Waldman’s life, Karolina’s Twins is yet another symbol of the strength and humility the human race withheld during our world’s most trying time.

Karolina’s Twins is told in alternating viewpoints; Lena, an 80 year old Chicago woman, approaches Catherine and Liam whom are a husband and wife lawyer/private investigator tag team. She’s determined to find two girls dating back to the Holocaust; a dark time in her history that she seldom discusses. Lena is a survivor and in order to paint a clear picture of the two girls she’s hoping to find, she must delve into her gruesome past and unlock memories she’s worked for decades to hide.

There’s one small glitch – Lena’s son Arthur files a lawsuit against his own mom, accusing Lena of being mentally incapacitated and overcome with an unhealthy obsession of finding two girls whom he believes never existed. He also is accusing her lawyer Catherine of taking advantage of Lena’s time and money simply because Lena has a very large estate – both accusations are not true. The book is a steady flip between Lena recounting her stories of living in Nazi-occupied Poland and the court case between she and Arthur.

Lena is insistent that the two young twins existed; decades ago she made a promise to Karolina, her best friend and the person she accredits to saving her life while the Nazis tormented them, that she would survive the war and return to Poland to find Karolina’s twin daughters. A promise Lena has harbored for nearly 60 years and one that has consumed most of her life, Lena doesn’t care if her son is trying to prove her incompetency. She knows the twins existed and Liam and Catherine must help her find them, at all costs.

In a fairly quick read, we learn that yet again, the Nazis are the epitome of evil. I was so enthralled with Lena’s story and her courageous heart that carried her though the war. She is witty, brave, and sharp; fearless in her pursuit to fulfill the promise she made so long ago.

It’s not a secret that I’ve read a lot of historical fiction Holocaust books, some of which are some of the best writing I’ve ever read. So – I probably have really high standards for that reason. But as I mentioned earlier, while the writing itself fell a little flat for me, I obviously enjoyed this book since I consumed it within a 24 hour time frame. I understand what the author was trying to accomplish with the two intertwined story lines that spanned across two very different decades; Lena during WWII and Lena, Catherine, and Liam during a present time court case. In my opinion, the legal parts of the story were merely fluff that could’ve been omitted, but it made for a semi-interesting story line (yet at times a bit unrealistic). I found myself wanting to skim through the legal part just so I could read more of Lena’s story during the war, of which I found absolutely fascinating.

Like I said, any and all Holocaust survivor stories demand complete and utter respect and will ALWAYS be 5 stars in my eyes – because really, how can one even judge that (especially one whom is so very privileged compared to those like Lena). The rating is lower for Karolina’s Twins simply because of the writing; however, I did just place a hold at the library for two more Holocaust books written by this author so clearly the writing was manageable.

I am in constant awe at how kind and giving the people whom lived during this tumultuous time were, the people who were stripped of absolutely everything and treated as poor as one can be treated were the ones who’d give others their last crumb of bread.  Treated in the most inhumane and disgusting way, their kindness remained in tact.

When reading this book, take the writing at face value but really allow yourself to divulge deep in Lena’s story. She, and all the survivors, deserve that much from a generation whom is so far removed from the harsh reality for millions of those less fortunate.

 

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