cover image The Plum Trees

The Plum Trees

Victoria Shorr. Norton, $27.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-393-54085-7

Shorr’s immersive latest (after Midnight) delves into the fate of a Czech Jewish family sent to Auschwitz during WWII. Consie, a struggling writer raised in America with European Jewish roots, discovers a letter written by her late uncle, who was a soldier in Germany just after WWII. In it, she learns that her grandfather’s brother, Hermann, might have escaped from Auschwitz, prompting Consie to research Hermann’s fate. Through various historical sources, including an oral history made by Hermann’s late daughter, Magda, Consie absorbs accounts of the brutal treatment of the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe and later at the death camps. Shorr draws from real-life accounts for gruesome details of the latter, in which babies were burnt alive, young girls with “beautiful skin” were turned into gloves, and survival “was less a matter of heroic triumph than of simple chance.” After Consie remembers a story Magda had told her about Hermann, she imagines a continuation of his life, as the elusive search for Hermann’s story teaches her to embrace the Holocaust victims “all as heroes.” This moving account makes clear the need to remember the horrors of war. (Mar.)