Riddled with survivor’s guilt, Brand, who has lost everything to the Nazis – his wife, his sister, his parents – heads to Palestine following his release from the camp. He is not alone in this and the British Mandate caps the number of Jewish immigrants it will allow into the country. This forces Brand to give up his own identity in order to live underground and earn a living driving a taxi.
In time, Brand meets and falls in love with Eva, another survivor who has lost her husband. With Eva, he joins the rebellious Irguns who seek to gain control of the Promised Land. Working as a driver for Eva and her compatriots, Brand finds a home albeit one that he cannot fully reconcile with his past victimhood and with a woman who refuses to let him fully into her life.
The story culminates with the bombing of the King David Hotel (a true event). Again, Brand loses everything and must find a way forward. This beautifully written book takes the reader through an important but lesser known history and uncovers the dull but omnipresent guilt and grief that followed many after the Holocaust.
City of Secrets by Stewart O’Nan. Viking/Penguin Random House; ISBN 978-0-67078-596-4; $22.
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