Updated: Jan 23, 2022
I picked up this book at a bookstore in Sydney airport while waiting for my flight back to Singapore (I am starting to believe that there is something about waiting for flights that make me want to pick up good books to read). Not one with a mind for the cold, hard facts of history, I much prefer reading stories set in certain historical contexts as they provide me with a glimpse of the situation at that time while sustaining my interest in the narrative. From the moment I flipped the cover, I was immediately gripped by the arresting description of how prisoners at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps were marked by tattooing their arms upon their entry into the camps. Suffice it to say that I could not put the book down from the get-go as I was transported deeper and deeper into the world of Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was not so much the love story between Lale, the protagonist, and Gita, a fellow prisoner, that caught my attention. That, of course, is very touching in its loving and enduring sweetness. However, what amazed me was the spirit of camaraderie between the prisoners such that they were even willing to risk their lives to protect one another. As I read, I often considered what I would do if I were to be in their situation: would I scrimp and save every last morsel of food for a fellow prisoner if I was hungry myself? Would I risk stealing and trading items for food and medicine to help a friend who was gravely ill? I simply could not fathom the immense generosity of their spirit, even at the expense of their own lives and when they were in a bleak and dire situation themselves! Though confronted with the brutal reality of pain and suffering themselves, they never once thought about themselves but sought ways to alleviate the pain of others. This book is a celebration of the human spirit at its very best: that everyone is capable of a higher goodness even in the face of death. I strongly recommend this book as every once in a while, we do need a dose of inspiration to uplift and refresh our spirits, especially in this trying Covid-19 pandemic. It will definitely set the reader on the path of a deeper reflection on life, relationships, and what it means to be essentially human.