cover image Sacred Shadows: 3

Sacred Shadows: 3

Maxine Rose Schur. Dial Books, $15.99 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2295-8

As in The Circlemaker and Day of Delight, Schur turns to a less-visited chapter in Jewish history for the setting of this intermittently interesting novel. Lena Katz grows up in Poland between the two World Wars. As German citizens, she and her war-widow mother are outsiders; as Jews, they feel the sting of ever-increasing Polish anti-Semitism. Lena dreams of going to Berlin to study fashion design, and, in fact, her aunt and her brother both encourage her mother to join them in Germany (""The Poles resent successful Jews,"" says Lena's brother in 1927, ""but in Germany we're rewarded""). This valuable historical perspective, however, is dampened by stiff characterizations and melodramatic plotting. The supporting cast adheres to familiar types, e.g., the poor but artistic outcast and the rich, spoiled beauty (the outcast kills herself after the beauty unjustly accuses her of stealing a sapphire ring). The story line devolves almost into operetta when Lena falls in love with a Zionist (""When I lay my head in love against his chest, the sound I heard was a beating of wings""), breaks up when she can't bring herself to leave with him for Palestine and then, at the very last minute, changes her mind and races to the train station to find him. An afterword outlines the fate of those Jews who did not share Lena's happy ending. Ages 11-14. (Oct.)