The following article summarizes the original event which is listed below the summary.

Book Notes | A story of war and the valiant persons who risk their lives to help others

January 20, 2023, at 2pm

During World War II, France was initially divided into a northern, German-occupied area and the Vichy or free area in the south. Jews and others tried to flee from the occupied area to the Vichy area. The story told by author Kristin Harmel in The Book of Lost Names is set in the Vichy area, where there was an underground network to help Jews and children escape to Switzerland.

We first meet Eva Traube Abrams, the book’s main character, when she is working as a semi-retired librarian in Florida. While working at the library one day she sees a photograph in a magazine lying open nearby. It is an image of a book she hasn’t seen in 65 years. As she returns to Germany to reclaim the book, her story is revealed

Eva was a student at the Sorbonne during WWII. She and her Jewish parents felt unsafe in Paris. Before her father was taken by the Germans, he told Eva to go with her mother to the Vichy area and then to Switzerland. This required making or getting forged documents that would hide their Jewish identity. Eva found she had the artistic ability to create forged documents for herself and her mother.

After arriving in Aurigon—a village with a large underground network to help Jews and children escape to Switzerland—Eva finds herself being recruited to work on the making of forged documents to help children escape. This entails giving them forged names. But how could these children be traced after the war ends? Eva and a fellow worker, Remy, devise an elaborate code that is kept in an old book, Epitres et Evangiles, on a church library shelf.

Chapters in The Book of Lost Names take the reader from the 1940s to the present time. The harrowing story keeps the reader immersed in the realities of WWII and the valiant persons who put their lives at great risk to help others.

Overall, members of the UMRA Book Club were engrossed by the book and the heroics of the people who helped Jewish people escape. We pondered how we might have acted if we were in a similar situation, and wished for more information on what happened to the children once they made it to Switzerland.

—Mariah Snyder, UMRA Book Club I member




January selection: ‘The Book of Lost Names’

Fri, Jan 20 2023, 2pm

Meeting will be held via Zoom.

Mariah Snyder will lead the discussion of The Book of Lost Names by American novelist Kristen Harmel when the UMRA Book Club meets via Zoom at 2 p.m. on Friday, January 20.

Email Pat Tollefson at [email protected] for more information, including suggestions for starting a new book club.

Read a summary of the group’s discussion of their November 2022 selection, West with Giraffes.

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