There on her forearm, next to a small brown birthmark, were six tattooed numbers. 'Do you remember me now?' he asked, trembling. She looked at him again, as if giving weight and bone to a ghost. 'Lenka, it's me,' he said. 'Josef. Your husband.' During the last moments of calm in prewar Prague, Lenka, a young art student, falls in love with Josef. ...
There on her forearm, next to a small brown birthmark, were six tattooed numbers. 'Do you remember me now?' he asked, trembling. She looked at him again, as if giving weight and bone to a ghost. 'Lenka, it's me,' he said. 'Josef. Your husband.' During the last moments of calm in prewar Prague, Lenka, a young art student, falls in love with Josef. They marry - but soon, like so many others, they are torn apart by the currents of war. In America Josef becomes a successful obstetrician and raises a family, though he never forgets the wife he thinks died in the camps. But in the Nazi ghetto of Terezin - and later in Auschwitz - Lenka has survived, relying on her skills as an artist and the memories of a husband she believes she will never see again. Now, decades later, an unexpected encounter in New York brings Lenka and Josef back together. From the comfort of life in Prague before the occupation to the horrors of Nazi Europe, The Lost Wife explores the endurance of first love, the resilience of the human spirit and our capacity to remember.
Publishers Weekly, 2011-07-18 Star-crossed lovers are separated during WWII in Richman's heart-wrenching fourth novel. Josef and Lenka meet as students in Prague in 1936 and fall instantly in love. Three years later, with Nazis crossing the border, they rush to marry, but circumstances then force them apart. Lenka remains in Europe, and Josef flees to America. For 61 years, each believes the other dead until they meet by chance at the wedding of their grandchildren, leading them to reflect on the past and the separate lives they've led: Josef ended up in New York, becoming a successful obstetrician because he was "tired of being haunted by death." Lenka wasn't so lucky. She's sent to a work camp, where her artistic talents connect her to "an underground network of painters illustrating the atrocities" of the Jewish ghettos. And then she's sent to, and survives, Auschwitz. Richman (The Last Van Gogh) once again finds inspiration in art, adding evocative details to a swiftly moving and emotionally charged plot. Richman's incremental descent into the horrors of the Holocaust lends enormous power to Lenka's experience and makes her reunion with Josef all the more poignant. Though the framing device of the decades-long separation can be cloying, this is a genuinely moving portrait. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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