The December 2020 Reece’s Book Club YA Pick is based on an extraordinary story of a teenager just trying to survive World War II. Read on for a book review of The Light In Hidden Places by Sharon Cameron.
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Stefania Podgorska works at a small store in Przemsyl, Poland right before the onset of World War II. She is betrothed to the shop owners son Izio Diamant, one that is kept secret since Stefania is Catholic and Izio is Jewish.
When the German army invades Przemysl, the Diamant family is forced to close their shop and move into the Jewish ghetto. Izio is sent to a death camp and Stefania’s family is sent to a labor camp. Stefania soon finds that her sister Helena is being abused by the neighbor that their mother sent to live with and quickly removes her sister from the home. With no money and very little food, things seem dire for Stefania but she is able to find a job. Stefania starts smuggling food and supplies to Max and his family and is able to stay out of the radar of Nazi soldiers for a time.
With rumors of the Jewish ghetto being liquidated, Max (Izio’s brother) and a few other people find their way to Stefania’s tiny home. Hidden away in a small space, Stefania continues to live life as normal as she can. When the Nazi’s assign two women to her home, Stefania is forced to home them AND keep the thirteen people in her attic secret.
REVIEW OF The light in hidden places
The Light in Hidden Places is such an emotional rollercoaster because there are so many times I thought that Stefania was going to be caught or arrested. It’s a gripping novel that doesn’t shy from the brutality of the Nazi soldiers inflicted on the Polish people. The Light in Hidden Places truly a compelling look into what life was like for Catholics in World War II, while they weren’t targeted as the Jews were life was still difficult under the German regime. This book is based on an unpublished memoir and many interviews and it feels like an intimate look into a young women just trying to survive and keep her sister safe.
When I say that The Light in Hidden Places was emotional, you can just feel the terror and exhaustion that Stefania and Helena feel during the height of the war. While Stefania should have been enjoying her teen years thinking about boys and pursuing her dream of singing, she concentrated on keeping her friends and family safe against overwhelming odds. I liked that the book included in actual photos of Stefania and Helena plus information on what happened to most of the people included in the novel after the war ended. Captivating and a solid choice for young adult readers who want to learn more about WWII survivors, The Light in Hidden Places is a must read.
Rating: 5/5 stars