Cyrla's neighbors have begun to whisper.
Her cousin, Anneke, is pregnant and has passed the rigorous exams for admission to the Lebensborn, a maternity home for girls carrying German babies. But Anneke's soldier has disappeared, and Lebensborn babies are only ever released to their father's custodyor taken away. A note is left under the mat. The neighbors know that Cyrla, sent from Poland for safekeeping with her Dutch relatives, is Jewish. The Nazis are imposing more and more restrictions; she won't be safe there for long.
And then in the space of an afternoon, life falls apart. Cyrla must choose between certain discovery in her cousin's home and taking Anneke's place in the LebensbornCyrla and Anneke are nearly identical. If she takes refuge in the enemy's lair, can Cyrla fool the doctors, nurses, guards, and other mothers-to-be? Can she escape before they discover she is not who she claims?
Mining a lost piece of history, Sara Young takes us deep into the lives of women living in the worst of times. Part love story and part elegy for the terrible choices we must often make to survive, My Enemy's Cradle keens for what we lose in war and sings for the hope we sometimes find.
"Not here, too! Nee!"
From the doorway, I saw soup splash from my aunt's ladle onto the tablecloth. These days, there was no fat in the broth to set a stain; still, my heart dropped when she made no move to blot the spill. Since the Germans had come, she had retreated further into herself, fading away in front of me so that sometimes it was like losing my mother all over again.
"Of course here, Mies," my uncle scoffed. His pale face pinked with the easy flush of red-haired men, and he leaned back and took off his glasses to polish them on his napkin. "Did you think the Germans would annex us as a refuge for Jews? The question is only why it took so long."
I brought the bread to the table and took my seat. "What's happened?"
"They posted a set of restrictions for Jews today," my uncle said. "They'll scarcely be able to leave their homes." He inspected his glasses, put them back on. ...
My Enemy's Cradle is a good read, though there are plot elements and character interactions that may strike some as unrealistic. However, these portions do gain credibility by virtue of the unnatural setting and extreme time in which they take place. Risky decisions, compromise and relationships – both forbidden and convenient – during the German occupation are part of Cyrla's story, as they are part of World War II history.
(Reviewed by Stacey Brownlie).
Full Review (890 words).
Sara Young previously has
published seven children's book
under the pen name
Sara Pennypacker, including
the Stuart series and the
Clementine series. Before
becoming an author, she was a
painter. She lives on Cape Cod,
Massachusetts. For more about
her, please see the interview at
Lebensborn (Fount of Life), founded by Heinrich Himmler in 1935, was originally set up to provide maternity homes and financial assistance to wives of the SS and unmarried ...
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