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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
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2023, 288 pages

    Mar 2024, 288 pages


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BookwormBecky - Stunning!
Displaced, conceal, protect…

No goodbyes…

Roger, Ana, Oskar, and Renata’s stories merge in Israel, post-war. All were removed or stolen during wartime and relocated .

Roger was placed at 3yo in a French monastery . He has been baptized Catholic, but the church can no longer resist the court system. Roger has been “harbored, hidden, sanctified, saved,” and now been claimed by his Jewish aunt from Israel.

Brother and sister Oskar and Ana (Daniel & Mira) are taken to the Dabrowski family farm in Poland . Oskar learns to whittle, play chess, and tend to farm duties. Ana remembers their parents but Oskar doesn’t remember, and considers the Dabrowskis his family. When they are relocated again, Ana sees it as a way to reconnect with her roots but Oskar sees it as a loss of home and family.

Renata is an archeology grad student currently on a dig in Israel. Her mother recently died; she never told Renata the truth about her past.

We will learn about their past and future struggles amid the uncertainties of life. It will be a voyage of discovery for all .


I enjoyed the significance of the nesting boxes and chess sets!

A very tender, moving story .

A story of relationships

Highly recommend!
Power Reviewer
Elizabeth @Silver's Reviews

Elizabeth @Silver's ReviewsFantastic...don't miss this one!!
Beautifully told in her mesmerizing style, Jennifer Rosner introduces us to four characters who suffered through the war and beyond.

We meet Ana and Oskar whose mother had to give her children to a Polish family who would raise them as their own to keep them safe.

The children had a wonderful life of learning and love but a life that heart-wrenchingly changed after the war.

Where will Ana and Oskar end up?

We meet Roger who grew up in a convent to be kept safe, who was very inquisitive, a clever, witty writer of stories and jokes, and sadly had no parents to go home with on holidays.

We find out what happens to him and where he goes.

We meet Renata as an adult who is a scientist in Israel at an archeological dig. We learn of Israel’s beauty as Renata takes side trips to Tel Aviv and other places.

On her shopping trip she finds a hand-chiseled chessboard and an ornately carved set of nesting boxes.

Could the craftsman in the shop be none other than Oskar whose uncle taught him to whittle and make beautiful shapes out of wood?

I will dearly miss the characters…especially Oskar….he was my favorite.

It also was fun to see our favorite violinist again from THE YELLOW BIRD SINGS.

Another beautiful, beautiful but heartbreaking-to-the-core read based on true events.

ONCE WE WERE HOME does have some happy stories tucked inside as well, along with comments you will ponder, and thoughts about life’s worries and lessons.

Historical fiction fans will devour this marvelously written, impeccably researched read where Ms. Rosner introduces readers to a little known program organized after the war for displaced children.

Ms. Rosner’s writing is exquisite. 5/5

The book was given to me by the author for an honest review.
Mitzi K. (Cumming, GA)

Heartbreakingly Beautiful Story
Once We Were Home by Jennifer Rosner is the thoughtful and heartbreakingly beautiful story of displaced children in Europe following WW2 and their struggle to find what was stolen from them—identity, family, and a sense of belonging. The book focuses on the aftermath and consequences of the decisions made on behalf of these children.

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.
Melinda J. (East Hampton, CT)

Once We Were Home review
"Once We Were Home" by Jennifer Rosner made me sit back and savor the words and ache for the characters who were stolen or placed with strangers or mere acquaintance to save them from sure death. The intention was good, but the trauma it caused these young children was not anticipated. Many of these children who came from Poland and Jewish families were in Christian homes or Catholic monasteries. When the war ended, families looked for these children. Parents may not have survived, but other family members did. These children who had learned Christian prayers and ways were torn when they were placed in the new country of Israel. They had to learn a new language, live in communes and many were trying to find mothers. They also met others, fell in love, had families and jobs.

Roger was raised in a monastery. He was a curious child, always questioning and telling stories. Roger is taken by Brother Jacques to another monastery through many days traveling through the mountains. This is done as the church believes he should not go with an aunt and uncle who have survived the war.

Oskar and his sister Agata are given to the Dabrowski family and Oskar has no memory of his birth parents. Agata remembers her mother and doesn't understand why Oskar wants to go back to the Dabrowski's. This story is one of several mysteries that will keep you reading.

There are so many touching moments in this book, and it is relevant in today's world. There are still wars, countries not able to provide food, medicine, and safety for their population. The children in the Ukraine are just one example of another generation losing so much of their history.

This is an author I will be following and as I read the book, I realized that I had her first book "The Yellow Bird Sings" and had met her at a book signing in March of 2020, just before the whole world shut down. Here's hoping you enjoy "Once We Were Home" as much as I did and there will be more books by this gifted author.
Tami H. (Randleman, NC)

Once We Were Home
Once We Were Home deals with issues of family and belonging, set in Europe during WWII and then in the early years of Israel's formation. The book is well written, telling the stories of multiple children who have lost their first homes and families and how they find home in new places and the difficulties of being displaced with no agency of their own. The reader is reminded of what home truly means and the people that make it. Excellent story.
Windell H. (Rock Hill, SC)

Where is home?
A beautifully written novel. Difficult to read at times.Addresses the question of how we define home. A story about Jewish children being taken to safety during WW2. I have read many stories about how Jews were taken to safety and protected from Nazi Germany but this is from a different perspective. Told from the children's point of view we see the impact of instability of what and where home is. The story plumbs the depth of love and family in very unstable surroundings. It shows the strength needed through family and friends to overcome adversity in changing and difficult times.
This would be a great book to discuss at book clubs.
I loved this book!
Debbie C (Rochester Hills, MI)

Incredibly moving story
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. During WWII, an untold number of Jewish children were ousted from their homes and hidden within Christian families or sent to orphanages, with some of them having little understanding of what was happening to them. Seen through the eyes of several of these children, the ones who lost their homes, their parents, and their heritage, the reader is taken on a journey of discovery with them to find themselves and where they will ultimately call home and who they will call family. This book and its characters are going to stay with me for a very long time.

Once We Were Home
I'm a big fan of WWII era books and am always drawn to them. This one was awesome! Jennifer Rosner's story is so mesmerizing with the dual past and present events meshed together. In some ways it was a book of multiple stories with each character coming to life as a child and then as an adult whose tragic childhood made them the people they became. Loved it and want more.
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