cover image Torn Thread

Torn Thread

Anne Isaacs. Scholastic Press, $15.95 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-590-60363-8

HIn a noteworthy departure, Isaacs (Swamp Angel; Treehouse Tales) turns her considerable literary gifts to a painful subjectDher mother-in-law's experiences as a teenage prisoner of a Nazi campDand transforms it into a powerful work of fiction. Like most stories of survival, this one is marked by unlikely turns and conjunctions, which, taken together, preserve the protagonist's life. Eva Buchbinder, 12 years old in 1943, has recently been forced into the Jewish ghetto in Bedzin, Poland, along with her father and sickly older sister, Rachel. After Rachel is seized in a roundup, Eva's father (who has, like other Jews, been forced to work for the Germans without pay) asks the commandant at his worksite to find out exactly where Rachel has been sentDand to have Eva sent there as well. Soon Eva is transported to a slave labor camp in Czechoslovakia, where she indeed finds Rachel. The conditions are terrible: starvation rations, dangerous conditions at the textile factory where they work, rampant disease and, always, the threat of deportation to Auschwitz. Eva struggles internally as well, trying her best to protect the frail Rachel, keeping from Rachel the news that the Bedzin ghetto has been liquidated and weighing the invitation of a fellow-prisoner to join up with partisan fighters. Isaacs takes the measure of acts of casual cruelty or kindness and lets readers see the repercussions. Given its precise detail and sensitivity to unimaginable suffering, this gripping novel reads like the strongest of Holocaust memoirs. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)