Hesse, Monica

They Went Left

(2) YA Hesse (Girl in the Blue Coat; The War Outside) explores the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust for one Polish Jewish eighteen-year-old. Zofia, like so many, was wrenched from her family in the concentration camps. Now liberated from Gross-Rosen, she is desperate for news of her younger brother, Abek. After months of recovery in the hospital, she goes back "home," where she is received with hostility by neighbors. Restless and unsettled, she makes her way to a displaced persons' camp in Germany, where she spends time with others who have also suffered terrible loss--and celebrates small happinesses with them. She develops feelings for a young man named Josef, whose past remains a mystery; and finally receives word of Abek, whose story is slowly revealed. Hesse's characters are believable and sympathetic. "My mind is a sieve," says Zofia, and occasional interspersed chapters, in ­italics, reveal details about her past--and about memories she may or may not have lost and/or recovered. Difficult questions about her present ("'What if my brother is dead?' Josef stares at me...'What if he is, Zofia? Do you think you could find a way to live the rest of your life?'") and future (should she join a group immigrating to Eretz Israel?) underscore the challenges of those who survived unimaginable horrors and must manage to keep living. An appended "Note on History and Research" tells more about the author's motivation and methodology.


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