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.
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.
Beautifully written. At times I could hardly believe the horror I was reading about. An important book but not easy to read.
A good read if you like reading Holocaust stories