They Went Left by Monica Hesse
English | 2020 | Historical Fiction | ePUB | 3.9 MB
A tour de force historical mystery from Monica Hesse, the bestselling and award-winning author of Girl in the Blue Coat.
Germany, 1945. The soldiers who liberated the Gross-Rosen concentration camp said the war was over, but nothing feels over to eighteen-year-old Zofia Lederman. Her body has barely begun to heal; her mind feels broken. And her life is completely shattered: Three years ago, she and her younger brother, Abek, were the only members of their family to be sent to the right, away from the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Everyone else–her parents, her grandmother, radiant Aunt Maja–they went left.
Zofia’s last words to her brother were a promise: Abek to Zofia, A to Z. When I find you again, we will fill our alphabet. Now her journey to fulfill that vow takes her through Poland and Germany, and into a displaced persons camp where everyone she meets is trying to piece together a future from a painful past: Miriam, desperately searching for the twin she was separated from after they survived medical experimentation. Breine, a former heiress, who now longs only for a simple wedding with her new fiancé. And Josef, who guards his past behind a wall of secrets, and is beautiful and strange and magnetic all at once.
But the deeper Zofia digs, the more impossible her search seems. How can she find one boy in a sea of the missing? In the rubble of a broken continent, Zofia must delve into a mystery whose answers could break her–or help her rebuild her world.
LINES. I AM GOOD AT LINES. I AM GOOD AT LINES BECAUSE YOU don’t have to think in them, just stand in them, and this line is easy because now only a few people are in front of me, and easy because I understand the reason I am in it, and it’s a good reason, and I am good at lines.
At the front of it, an official-looking woman—from the Red Cross, I think—sits behind a table. It’s a nice, indoor table, as though it was carried out to the street from someone’s dining room. Except, instead of sitting on a rug, it sits on cobblestones, and instead of candlesticks, it’s piled with neat stacks of papers and smells of furniture polish, or I imagine it would; it looks like that kind of table. A solitary cup also sits on it, next to the papers at the proper two o’clock of an imaginary place setting like a leftover from the table’s former life. A cup of tea for the official worker.
“Next,” she says, and we move forward because this is how lines work; they move forward.
I look back toward the door, but the other nothing-girls don’t come out to say goodbye. I’m the first one of us to leave the hospital. In the early weeks after the war, there were always goodbyes from the healthier patients, always plans being made. You could look out the ward window almost any time and see a truck grinding past, stuffed with German soldiers on their way home, Polish soldiers on their way home. Russians, a few Canadians, everyone traveling in a different direction, and every direction was someone’s home, as if the world were a board game and all the pieces had ended up scattered in the wrong corners of the box.
But none of the nothing-girls were well enough then. So we don’t have a protocol yet for what to do when one of us leaves. We have no addresses to exchange. We have nothing. We weigh nothing, we feel nothing, we existed on nothing, for years.
Our minds are nothing. That’s the biggest nothing, the reason we are still in the hospital. Our minds are soft. Confused.