cover image Sunrise Shows Late

Sunrise Shows Late

Eva Mekler. Bridge Works Publishing Company, $21.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-1-882593-17-0

The setting of this austerely beautiful first novel is an overcrowded, all-Jewish displaced persons camp run by the U.N. in American-occupied Germany in 1946-47. Unlike most of the camp's residents, who are concentration-camp survivors, Manya Gerson, a 27-year-old woman from Warsaw, survived the war by passing as a gentile with forged identity papers. A Polish underground veteran and bitterly disillusioned ex-Communist, Manya endured the death of her parents in extermination camps, as well as the murder of her Communist husband, who was shot to death by a jealous comrade. Now pregnant, Manya, whose gutsy urbanity hides her anxieties, must choose between two very different men: her lover, immigration worker Bolek Holzer, a fiercely committed Zionist whose wife and son died in Birkenau and who smuggles shiploads of Jews and guns to Palestine; and a suitor, charming, gentle Czech microbiologist Emmanuel Kozak, a Bergen-Belsen survivor who offers Manya a stable life and a teaching post in Paris. Around them are the sharply delineated DPs, Holocaust survivors forever altered by their ordeal. Polish-born New York psychologist Mekler (coauthor of Bringing Up a Caring Child), who lived with her family in a German DP camp until she was four, indelibly captures the precariousness of Jewish existence in the postwar years preceding Israel's birth. Love blossoms amid the chaos, rubble and danger in a tender tale narrated with a calm restraint that adds to its power. (Apr.)