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BookBrowse Reviews Once We Were Home by Jennifer Rosner

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Once We Were Home

by Jennifer Rosner

Once We Were Home by Jennifer Rosner X
Once We Were Home by Jennifer Rosner
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2023, 288 pages

    Mar 2024, 288 pages


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About this Book



A beautifully descriptive story of four children stolen away from their families during World War II and of the deeper meanings of "home."

In addition to Once We Were Home, which our First Impressions readers awarded a high average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars, Jennifer Rosner is the author of The Yellow Bird Sings, another work of historical fiction that focuses on the experiences of children during World War II.

What the book is about:

Once We Were Home is a great title for this beautifully written and well-researched account of the lives of four children who were hidden or stolen during WWII to protect them from the Nazis and "save" them. The story follows these children for decades (1946-1968) even as they become adults with their own children. They all suffer and feel sadness as they search with hope for their birth families and real homes, following clues they uncover in their young lives (Carol S). Two Jewish children are raised by a Christian couple, go to church, and are assimilated into the Christian faith but are surrounded by love. However, they are eventually identified as being Jewish and whisked away to Israel. A boy is raised in a monastery but when identified as Jewish the church wants to save his soul, refusing to give him up, and tries to hide him. A post-graduate student in archeology goes to Israel after her mother's death with unanswered questions about her background. All of them eventually end up in Israel with questions of identity that torture their souls (Lani S).

Readers felt connected to the story through Rosner's captivating and emotional writing.

A hard book to read at times due to the trauma experienced by small children being separated from their parents to keep them safe from the Nazis. Yet, at the same time, it is a book that is hard to put down. Rosner, in her exquisite writing, brings each of the four protagonists alive and in so doing makes you grieve, care for and love each of them (Karna B). The writing is sensitive: You feel the danger, love, trust and bravery. You fear, cheer, endure and laugh — all the emotions felt by the characters. The writing places you in the story (Terry G).

They appreciated the moral and philosophical questions raised by the novel, as well as the thematic exploration of the concept of "home."

I suppose the underlying question that this novel — and history itself — leaves us with is: Were the children really protected? Was this undertaking that morphed into something entirely different, justified by religious views, really in the best interest of the children involved? (Barbara H). Novels that are set during and immediately after WWII are always among my favorites. I was eager to read this story that focuses on children who were removed from their families during the war, ostensibly for their safety. However, Once We Were Home is so much more. At the heart of this novel is the concept of home, what makes a true home and the longing for home (Gail K).

Many commented on the sheer beauty of Rosner's prose…

Beautiful, beautiful prose...this book is a treasure. The author credits her readers with the ability to follow a complicated plot as she tells the story of children displaced and stolen after WWII. This is a book to read and re-read, feeling privileged and impressed each time by the beauty of the writing (Jean B). Another beautiful, beautiful but heartbreaking-to-the-core read based on true events … Historical fiction fans will devour this marvelously written, impeccably researched read (Elizabeth P).

…and declared the story a highly memorable one.

Once We Were Home is one of those special books that will stay with me. Fans of Ruta Sepetys will appreciate this author's focus on bringing little-known history to light. I highly recommend this intricately layered story. This would also be a wonderful book club selection (Mitzi K). I was incredibly moved by this story. This author does a wondrous job of opening our hearts and minds to a little-remembered tragedy of war. This book and its characters are going to stay with me for a very long time (Debbie C).

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in March 2023, and has been updated for the April 2024 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

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