Late last year, I picked up a book in a bookstore (remember those? Delightful places that smelled of ink and paper and had all kinds of books on the shelves?). Anyway, last summer I picked up a book in a bookstore simply because I’d seen a few trailers for the movie based on it and I liked the cover design. Plus, when I glanced over the back cover copy, it sounded interesting. I mean there was a historical mystery to be uncovered. That’s good! (I am the girl who watches the Travel Channel’s “Mysteries at the Museum” and can’t stop listening to the “Stuff I Missed in History Class” podcast.) The action appeared to take place in two time periods: present and the past. Like that. And it seemed like an easy read after digging into some tougher classics during the last year.
Then I started reading the book, Sarah’s Key.
It’s really good. It’s well written and based on a historical event I didn’t even know happened. But if I had read that back cover copy a little closer, maybe I would have figured out that the book is set during World War II. And one of the primary characters and the mystery involves the Holocaust. The terrible treatment. The murder of millions. A world that closed its eyes. I don’t like to read about the Holocaust, because I don’t like to think about where our own sinful desires and evil can lead.
Last year, a friend of mine performed in a local production of The Diary of Anne Frank. I used the entire ride there to tell the friend in the car with me how much I hated that book and play. But I don’t hate it, really. I hate the sadness of it. I hate it because it makes the Holocaust real. Because you get to know Anne and love her, which makes it hurt all the worse when the police barge in and take the families away from there hiding place. I wish you could have been in that tiny theater during that final scene. Dead silence fell over the crowd, and we all exhaled breaths we didn’t know we’d been holding. We had known this was coming, braced ourselves and prepared for it, but when it finally happened and Anne and her family where taken off stage, it hurt all the more, more than we had imagined. Tears welled up in my eyes and spilled down my cheeks.
I cry a lot. I cry during movies and when I’m reading novels, but I cried that night because the story was true. Anne was a real person and these terrible things happened to her. And her story could be multiplied millions of times over.
It’s the same with Sarah’s Key. I sometimes read while I’m eating dinner if I’m home alone and I cry as I read and eat. I cry during nearly every chapter. I cry because I know that this fictional story is based in a true historical event. I cry because Sarah’s story or one kind of like it probably happened to someone in the summer of 1942. I cry because this novel puts a face on the horrors of the Holocaust and gives a name to one of its victims. Such terrible things are easier to push aside when the victims have no names, but when you know them . . . it sends a dagger to your heart.
May I never forget. May I always stand up for what is right.