Names in a Jar

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Modern Age

Names in a Jar
Author: Gold, Jennifer
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Time Period: Modern Age
Time Frame: 1939-1987
Geographic Area: Europe
Country: Poland
Topics: WWII Holocaust
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age: Young Adult, Adult
Format: Novel
Published: 2021

Content Warning
rape, death, genocide

World History > Modern Age > WWII

Twelve-year-old Anna Krawitz is imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto with her older sister, Lina, and their father. Happy days spent reading about anatomy and science in Papa’s bookshop are long gone, and the knowledge they have is used to help their neighbors through the illnesses caused by starvation and war.

With no hope in sight and supplies dwindling, Anna finds herself taking care of an orphaned baby. With a courage she didn’t know she had, Anna and the baby leave behind all they know and go into hiding with a Catholic family, changing their names to hide their identity, but Lina is not so lucky and winds up in the infamous Treblinka Camp. Can Lina survive and find her way back to Anna? Will the two sisters even recognize each other after such a long time?

A story filled with hope, courage and reconciliation.

Emily's Review

Told through the eyes of two Jewish sisters, Names in a Jar is a story of their experiences during World War II. This is a story that I needed to sit with for a bit after finishing it. My rating kept changing as I read, and I needed a minute to figure out my thoughts. There were elements that I really liked. I loved Anna's character. I thought she was a well-written strong-willed and intelligent girl.

I also appreciated that we got to see Irena Sendler's work - she did so much for so many children, yet I feel like no one knows about her. I do wish we could have gotten more of her in the story though.

I loved the focus on the resistance workers. So many people fought back and worked behind the scenes to rescue people and sabotage the Nazis, and I love to see that at work. It's easy for a story like this to fall into the helpless victims' trope. I appreciate that this novel didn't do that. We can see all the ways, big and small, that people fought back.

There were moments I felt were a very realistic portrayal, and there were moments that I've seen done better in other books on this time period. That's the problem with this kind of story though. The market is very saturated with Holocaust literature, so if you are going to do that, it needs to stand out in some way. I'm not sure that this book did that.

I think if you've not read much about this period in history, this story could be a good starting point.

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