My Mother’s Secret
Based on the true story of Franciszka Halamajowa, who saved 15 of the 30 surviving Jews in her Polish town during World War II, this novel is suitable for both young and old in its interweaving of tales from various perspectives. The first-person narratives begin with Helena, Franciszka’s daughter, and move on to include: Bronek, a Jew struggling to hold his family together; Mikolaj, a young Jewish boy, learning from his parents’ example; and Vilheim, a German soldier assigned to a Polish ghetto. These characters are compelling in their own right, and readers might wish to hear more from each one, regretting those section divides when the point of view changes. But characters’ lives intertwine in ways that keep readers invested until the very end, perhaps still wishing for more of these poignant stories. Through it all, we get glimpses of Franciszka herself, and what it takes to risk one’s life for others. Witterick creates full characters with very few words, stripping the text down to its essentials and helping readers to find what is truly important.