The Medallion | Book Review
For fans of bestselling World War II fiction like Sarah’s Key and The Nightingale comes an illuminating tale of courage, sacrifice, and survival, about two couples whose lives are ravaged by Hitler’s mad war yet eventually redeemed through the fate of one little girl.
Seemingly overnight, the German blitzkrieg of Warsaw in 1939 turns its streets to a war zone and shatters the life of each citizen—Polish, Jewish, or otherwise. Sophie Kumiega, a British bride working in the city’s library, awaits news of her husband, Janek, recently deployed with the Polish Air Force. Though Sophie is determined that she and the baby in her womb will stay safe, the days ahead will draw her into the plight of those around her, compelling her to help, whatever the danger.
Rosa and Itzhak Dunovich never imagined they would welcome their longed-for first child in the Jewish ghetto, or that they would let anything tear their family apart. But as daily atrocities intensify, Rosa soon faces a terrifying reality: to save their daughter’s life, she must send her into hiding. Her only hope of finding her after the war—if any of them survive—is a medallion she cuts in half and places around her neck.
Inspired by true events of Poland’s darkest days and brightest heroes, The Medallion paints a stunning portrait of war and its aftermath, daring us to believe that when all seems lost, God can make a way forward.
This was not a happy book to read by any stretch of the imagination. So if you're looking for a weekend book to relax and escape, this probably isn't the one.
But if you dare to see the suffering of the Polish Jews during the Holocaust from a new angle, you will discover a gut-wrenching account, inspired by an unbelievable true story, and meet characters that work their way into your heart until it hurts. I thought I understood the horrors of the Holocaust. But Cathy Gohlke portrays the heartbreak of the times, specifically the gruesome atrocities of the Polish ghettos and the Ponary Forest, in a new way. I learned things about that part of history that I didn't know. And yet, it is not a hopeless book. It is a memorial to pain, but in the midst of despair, there is the exciting triumph of God's mercy.
As a new mother myself, Rosa and Sophia's experiences with pregnancy and child-bearing in the midst of war particularly pulled me into the story, and it hurt. As I think about my sleeping baby boy while I type, I can't even imagine the desperation that would force you to part from your child to save their life.
My only real problem with this book? It may just be me, but I get tired of slogging through character's depressing misunderstandings for pages and pages when all they have to do is COMMUNICATE, for crying out loud! It makes me want to shake them and shriek, JUST ASK HIM/HER THE QUESTION, ALREADY! Please tell me I'm not the only one! Weigh in on this in the comments - do easily-avoided misunderstandings in books bother you, or are you just along for the ride?? This girl wants to know!
I believe the value of The Medallion lies in the true stories it showcases and the memorial it creates to the brave souls who defied the darkest of odds. As far as the crafting of the fictional aspects of the story, it was fairly predictable, but the end result outweighed that.
"We cannot live by sight amid the darkness. We can't foreknow or understand how He provides answers to our deepest needs - only that He does. Trusting Him is our path to peace. He calls us to step out on the dry ground He provides, trusting that when there seems no way, our God Who is able will forge our path through deep waters." - Cathy Gohlke in Note to Readers
The Medallion will be published on June 4, but it is available for pre-order now. Click here to check it out!
*I received an e-book copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed here are my own.*
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