It is 1941 in France and fifteen year old Magali is frustrated. The nation is supposed to be “free” but the Vichy government is cooperating with the Nazis. Internment camps run by the Vichy government were being used to detain people they considered undesirable: Gypsies, illegal immigrants, and especially foreign Jews. While these were not death camps, people did die there from disease and malnutrition. Sometimes children were released from these camps when they became orphans or were sick. Magali desperately wants to be one of the young women who ferries the children to their new homes. When she is finally allowed to go along on the rescue trips, she feels like her life is making a difference. But then she makes a mistake that puts them all in danger.
This is a great fictional account of young women rescuing children that is based on history. There were many who devoted their lives to saving as many children as they could. Many of the children went to children's homes like the one in this novel. Some of the young women actually worked in the camps, as did some in this novel. This was during the earlier part of the war, 1941 and 1942. France was still trying to appear humane. The later years would become much more harsh.
The Munns have created Magali as a teen who desires to do more than just attend school or help her mother cook and shop. Seeing a young woman bringing rescued children to her village, she wants to do such important work too. But Magali is young and a bit brash. We watch her grow as she sees the conditions in the camps for the first time. We also see her make some serious mistakes. Through it all she learns about herself, others, and God.
This is a good coming of age story that deals with serious issues. It also shows how young people can rise to the occasion when the need is so prominent. Magali was willing to risk danger when many adults would not do so. The is a good story for teen readers as well as adults. You will get a realistic idea of what life was like in the early years of WW II in rural France.
This is a sequel to How Huge the Night (see my review here). This novel does stand well on its own, however.
Heather Munn grew up in the south of France. She decided to be a writer at the age of five. She went to French schools until her teens. She grew up hearing the story of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, the real town the fictional one in this novel is based upon. She and her husband now live in Illinois where they offer free spiritual retreats to people coming out of homelessness and addiction.
Lydia Munn grew up the daughter of missionaries in northern Brazil. She majored in English at Wheaton College. Her plan to teach English gradually transitioned into a lifelong love of teaching the Bible as a missionary in France, notably in St. Etienne. She and her husband have two children, one of whom is Heather. The Munns now live in Grenoble, France.
Kregel Publications, 312 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.