Mischling A novel

Affinity Konar

Book - 2016

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FICTION/Konar, Affinity
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Historical fiction
New York : Little, Brown and Company 2016.
First edition
Item Description
"A Lee Boudreaux book."
Physical Description
344 pages ; 25 cm
Main Author
Affinity Konar (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* No zoo ever operated on more devilish principles than the cruel zoo of paired human specimens maintained by Josef Mengele, who culled twins from the prisoners at Auschwitz for insidious comparative experiments. Yet in the factual testimonies of survivors of this monstrous zoo, Konar finds inspiration for fiction of rare poignancy—and astonishing hope. Daughters of a Jewish physician spirited into oblivion by Nazi goons, the 12-year-old twins Stasha and Pearl Zagorski find themselves among Auschwitz Zoo specimens, in the hands of a doctor fiendishly unlike their tender father. Victims themselves of Mengele's malevolence and witnesses of his atrocities against others, Stasha and Pearl sustain each other through role-playing games of death-defying imagination. Unfolding out of Stasha's anguished psyche, Konar's compelling narrative conveys a surviving twin's intense grief when Pearl disappears—and her courageous refusal to succumb to that grief, or to pain, starvation, or despair, even in the waning months of the war, when Auschwitz's overlords desperately destroy evidence of their crimes. With Feliks—another zoo specimen who has lost a twin sibling—Stasha escapes from a death march of Auschwitz inmates, aflame with fantasies of vengeance against Mengele and with luminous if jumbled dreams of a better future. An unforgettable sojourn of the spirit. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Lots of push is planned for this painfully startling debut featuring twin sisters Pearl and Stasha, who are subjected to horrific experiments at Auschwitz by the camp's notorious physician, Dr. Josef Mengele. Pearl eventually disappears, and after liberation, Stasha joins forces with another survivor to search for her. With a 150,000-copy first printing. [Page 62]. (c) Copyright 2016 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Horrific beyond words is not too strong a characterization of this first novel, featuring the young Polish Jewish twins Stasha and Pearl Zamorski, who have been interned in the Auschwitz death camp with other members of their family. The girls catch the eye of Dr. Josef Mengele, who is fascinated with twins. "Uncle," as inmates call Mengele, isolates them with other twins in what they call the "Zoo," where he often treats them kindly, bestowing special favors on them to keep them alive. But he also subjects them to gruesome, nonscientific experiments that result in great suffering and, usually, death. While bonding in the Zoo with other "experiments," as these young victims call themselves, Pearl and Stasha rely on their closeness to survive the horrors. Eventually, Pearl disappears, and Stasha's determination to find out what happened to her propels the narrative. VERDICT Titled after the pejorative Nazi German word for "mixed blood," though Zwillinge ("twins") might have been more apt, this searing work deepens our understanding of the Holocaust. It is highly recommended for that reason and for its stunningly original approach to a subject that would be too awful to read about if rendered in straightforward prose. [See Prepub Alert, 3/28/16.]—Edward B. Cone, New York [Page 82]. (c) Copyright 2016 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Without sentimentality, Konar's gripping novel explores the world of the children who were the subjects of Nazi doctor Josef Mengele's horrifying experiments at Auschwitz. Stasha and Pearl, 12-year-old Jewish sisters from Poland, are placed in Mengele's "zoo" because they are twins, rather than being sent to the gas chambers. Stasha is impulsive, a little melancholy, and given to storytelling; Pearl is more restrained and observant, and less dependent on her sister. Mengele selects one of the sisters to torture and uses the other as a control in his experiment. The two narrate alternating chapters of their story, which begins when they are sent to the camp in the autumn of 1944. The latter part takes the novel into the chaotic months after Auschwitz was abandoned, when some of the inmates were set on a death march and others were liberated by the Allies. Konar neatly avoids making Mengele the center of attention, instead focusing on the girls and the people they meet in the zoo, including brash, mouthy Bruna; conflicted Dr. Miri, a Jewish physician conscripted to work for "Uncle Doctor" Mengele; and messenger boy Peter, whose affection for Pearl threatens the closeness of the twins. Konar makes every sentence count; it's to her credit that the girls never come across as simply victims: they're flawed, memorable characters trying to stay alive. This is a brutally beautiful novel. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Sept.) [Page ]. Copyright 2016 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Twin sisters fight to survive the evils of World War II and the Holocaust. 150,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Arriving at Auschwitz in 1944, twin sisters Pearl and Stasha Zagorski take refuge in each other when they become part of the experimental population of twins known as Mengele's Zoo, where they experience horrors unknown to other inmates.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Pearl is in charge of: the sad, the good, the past. Stasha must care for: the funny, the future, the bad. It's 1944 when the twin sisters arrive at Auschwitz with their mother and grandfather. In their benighted new world, Pearl and Stasha Zagorski take refuge in their identical natures, comforting themselves with the private language and shared games of their childhood. As part of the experimental population of twins known as Mengele's Zoo, the girls experience privileges and horrors unknown to others, and they find themselves changed, stripped of the personalities they once shared, their identities altered by the burdens of guilt and pain. That winter, at a concert orchestrated by Mengele, Pearl disappears. Stasha grieves for her twin, but clings to the possibility that Pearl remains alive. When the camp is liberated by the Red Army, she and her companion Feliks -- a boy bent on vengeance for his own lost twin -- travel through Poland's devastation. Undeterred by injury, starvation, or the chaos around them, motivated by equal parts danger and hope, they encounter hostile villagers, Jewish resistance fighters, and fellow refugees, their quest enabled by the notion that Mengele may be captured and brought to justice within the ruins of the Warsaw Zoo. As the young survivors discover what has become of the world, they must try to imagine a future within it. A superbly crafted story, told in a voice as exquisite as it is boundlessly original, Mischling defies every expectation, traversing one of the darkest moments in human history to show us the way toward ethereal beauty, moral reckoning, and soaring hope. "One of the most harrowing, powerful, and imaginative books of the year"-Anthony Doerr about twin sisters fighting to survive the evils of World War II.