Author: Affinity Konar
“I knew I wanted to forgive. My tormentor would never ask for my forgiveness- this was certain- but I knew it might be the only true power I had left.”
Pearl and Stasha are twins who wind up in and must survive “the Zoo,” Josef Mengele’s hideous hospital of experiments during World War II. Mischling was a Nazi term for something like a half-breed. But in the end, as history has shown, it didn’t really matter to Mengele what you were.
I really liked this book. It’s a tough read. The story is split into two parts- in the camp and in the wild and dangerous days after the camp is liberated.It’s told through the eyes of Pearl and Stasha. Mostly I connected with Stasha whose prone to flights of imagination who convinces herself that if she can make herself special and important Mengele will favor her and her sister.
I’m aware that some people didn’t like the prose of the book, the overuse of imagery and the sometimes flowery writing- which is something I usually wouldn’t like. But for me it totally worked here.
You’re seeing unimaginable horror through the eyes of children. Many adults wouldn’t be able to deal with it. They have to find ways in their heads to make it work. To make it survivable. Sometimes it does take a moment to realize what’s being described but to me it didn’t lose it’s power. And the children, even Stasha, know exactly what’s going on.
They are trying to survive. They are trying to hold on and, most importantly, they are trying to do whatever it takes to stay human. Which is something Mengele and the guards want to deny them. For me the way it was written worked because I imagine it’s how and what people would have to do and think in order to survive.
I also liked the connection between the two sisters. Stasha was the more interesting of narrators yes but she was also the more active character. Pearl definitely feels the full brunt of the experiments.
After the camp falls it does get a little slow and at times feels like we’re going in circles. There’s an interesting bit with several of the adult characters who survived the camps, who helped but in doing so also had to make sacrifices and do horrible things and the toll that took on their souls. One character, who wasn’t in the camps, pointed out that even by saving people you were choosing and consigning others to death. How do you live with that? How does anyone go on after surviving such evil?
All in all, I’m really glad I read this one. It’s an interesting look at a horrible moment in time. I think this might be the first book I’ve ever braved specifically about these experiments and for me it was very much worth it.