The Fortunate Ones

Written by Ellen Umansky
Review by Elicia Parkinson

In Vienna, Austria in 1939, Rose and her brother Gerhard are put upon a train (Kindertransport) and sent to England to live with other families to protect them from the impending dangers of the Second World War. In Los Angeles in 2005, Lizzie buries her father and mourns his death.

The stories of Rose and Lizzie are brought together by a single painting by the Jewish painter Chaim Soutine. The painting, The Bellhop, was in Rose’s family prior to the war but disappeared in the ensuing chaos. The same painting made its way into Lizzie’s family, but during her teenage years the painting went missing from her home as well. This painting brings Rose and Lizzie together, though their lives are on different geographical and generational paths.

Umansky’s debut novel tells of the life and fears of a young woman in Europe during the war and the desire to return to her home and her comforts, as well as writing a mostly believable character living in the 21st century. Their stories might be different on the outside, but their struggles and desires are similar as they both try to find the painting that played such an integral part in their childhoods.

Aside from a strange fixation on fertility throughout the story, this is a touching novel that will appeal to readers who enjoy historical drama with a mystery that spans the years.