In pre-World War II Prague, Lenka and Josef meet and fall in love. Lenka is an art student, and Josef, a medical student, is the brother of Lenka’s friend and schoolmate. They meet at a Shabbat dinner at the home of Josef’s parents. They keep their relationship secret. By the time they decide to marry, the war has started and the Germans have conquered Czechoslovakia. They marry, but are separated by the circumstances of war.
After the war, each is the only surviving member of their families. And they each have good reason to believe that the other has perished. They both end up in New York, marry, and have families. And they each end up losing their spouse. The book actually opens in 2000, as Josef is dressing to attend the rehearsal dinner for the wedding of his beloved grandson. He has met the bride-to-be, but not her family. When he is introduced to the bride’s grandmother, he immediately recognizes her as his dear Lenka.
And then the book begins. It toggles between Prague and New York in the 1940’s and the present. The Lost Wife is based on a supposedly true story, and it is a powerful tale. It speaks particularly to the amazing capacity of people to survive and thrive despite witnessing unimaginable heartbreak and horror.
It is often difficult to read about the tragedies of World War II, but it helps that The Lost Wife starts at the end of the story, so we know that at least there is a happy ending. I recommend this book very highly.
Published in softcover-Berkley Trade-2011