It is late 1945. Millie (Meike) Mosbach, a young German Jewish woman, has returned to Berlin after the war to assist in America’s de-Nazification efforts. Also back in Germany is her younger brother David, who is part of the U.S. Army, trained in intelligence and working in the Displaced Persons camps. Back in 1938, the entire Mosbach family had tried to flee Germany together for the U.S. but only the two older children got out, leaving their parents and younger sister Sarah behind. The separation at the train station continues to haunt Millie and her main reason for returning to Germany is to find her parents and sister. The reports are not encouraging but she has never given up hope.
The story shifts back in time to Millie and David’s early life in the United States having been sponsored by a generous American couple. Millie receives a scholarship and graduates from Bryn Mawr College. David attends private school and pursues a military career. While it is less overt, they both experience an undercurrent of anti-Semitism in their new country.
The post-war setting of The Living and the Lost provides a rarely written about perspective of the aftermath of the Holocaust. As Germany was occupied by several nations, the American’s effort to help rebuild the country was filled with many challenges. Author Ellen Feldman brings the reader into the chaos that existed in Germany including homelessness, poverty and crime. Millie is so filled with survivor’s guilt that she is unable to find much joy in her life. She can only see the worst in people as she only sees the worst in herself. While she has survived, Millie, in many ways, is also part of the lost. Author Feldman takes an unsentimental, realistic approach in Millie's journey which includes meeting her match in Major Harry Sutton, a man who is also hiding his own demons.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Griffin, the author and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this thoughtful, engaging book prior to its release. I enjoyed the author’s last book Paris Never Leaves You and found this book to be even stronger.
Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: September 7, 2021.
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