Once We Were Home by Jennifer Rosner came on my radar this past March when I attended Literature Lover's Night Out hosted by Valley Bookseller. I love this book event because they always expose me to new-to-me authors and books. After I listened to Rosner talk about what inspired her book, I had to get my hands on it. This book was an emotional journey. I knew very little about the concept of Jewish children being hidden away by Christian churches and their refusal to give the children back to their parents after WWII. This story was told from multiple character perspectives, each with a unique life story of how they were hidden for survival, with an incredible tie in at the end.
Once We Were Home follows three characters: Ana, Roger and Renata. Ana is a young girl when her and her brother are sent to live with a Christian family friend. Her brother was young enough not to remember their parents and life before, but Ana remembers and does not want to forget. Roger grows up in a monastery where he knows very little about his Jewish roots. When a relative comes forward to claim him, the church hides him in order to save his soul with Christianity, which is all Roger really knows. Renata is a post-graduate student in archaeology, digging up secrets of past lives, except her own. Each character is building their own life decades after the war and working through discovery their own identity.
I loved how this book gave such different perspectives on what effect the displacement of children during WWII had on them and their families. Each character tells a different side of the story. I felt like Rosner could have written three entire novels with each of their stories.
For those who love historical fiction, especially novels set during WWII, I encourage you to check out Once We Were Home . It has such a unique perspective of a part of history that many of us, myself included, might not even be aware of. I love when a book teaches me something and Jennifer Rosner was such a joy to listen to and meet. She is an #ownvoices author and I will use this as a reminder to seek out WWII books written by Jewish authors. I know there are many NYT bestsellers out there by non-Jewish authors that everyone raves about, but don't limit yourself. Seek out #ownvoices authors.
If you live in the western Wisconsin/Twin Cities area, check out Literature Lover's Night Out. You will leave with a full heart and an armful of books!