Recommended Reading:
Karolina’s Twins by Ron Balson


Although Poland was the epicenter of the World War II and the Holocaust, you would never know it by what the baby boomer generation learned about it for forty years after the war. In Poland, the truth was banned by the communists, just as it was hidden in the USA by our fear of communism. Part of my fascination with World War II is the way it brought out the worst and the best imaginable human behavior. All of this is a way of leading into a review of one of the most impressive Holocaust tales I have ever read: Karolina’s Twins by Ronald H. Balson.

Karolina’s Twins is a work of fiction “inspired by the life of Fay Scharf Waldman, a woman of extraordinary courage, determination, and wisdom,” according to Balson. It is through fiction and with the perspective afforded by more than half a century’s distance from the Holocaust that the author is able to convey an astounding portrait of human suffering and cruelty, as well as compassion and the will to survive.

The plot unravels with the main characters rooted in contemporary Chicago. Lena Woodward, a Holocaust survivor who enlists the help of lawyer-investigator husband-wife team Catherine Lockhart and Liam Taggart to track down twin girls who were abandoned during the war. Did they survive? Are they still alive? As Lena recalls the horror of her captivity under the Nazi reign of terror, mysteries arise. Why does her son oppose her search fiercely enough to take his aged mother to court and try to prove that she is dememted? Why is she so obsessed with finding these long lost girls?

Balson has written a real page-turner without trivializing the horrors he describes. He also manages to avoid the pitfalls of condemning entire nations or races by concentrating instead on the deeds—brutal or brave—of individuals. Lena’s memories are almost entirely set in Nazi-occupied Poland, and the book portrays the betrayers and the heroes with equal believability.

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