Thank you to my long time friend Elizabeth for recommending The Red Tent many years ago. It is Anita’s best known book and an excellent read about the stories of Sarah and Hagar. I went to the library for The Boston Girl, recommended by another woman friend. Next to it I found Day After Night. I started reading it on my way to a library assignment last night and finished it this morning. It is a compelling book. It wraps me in my persona as a Jewish woman, even though none of my relatives were involved in either side of the Holocaust, as far as I know.
The story finds four young women in an internment camp run by the British in Palestine in 1945. They are from very different backgrounds but find a common love for each other. Leonie, petite and pretty, came from Paris. Shayndel helped fight for the Resistance in Vilnius, Lithuania. Zorah is small, sharp, and angry. She is concentration camp survivor, slowly coming to terms with her survival and her return to life. Tedi, tall, blonde, and “able to pass,” was hidden on a Dutch farm.
Atlit, the camp in the desert, is a sort of Ellis Island for Jews arriving in leaky boats without the proper papers to settle in Palestine. Some refugees are quickly claimed by “relatives.” Some are quite ill or in poor mental health and sent off to the hospital. People are afraid of everything in the beginning. The giant metal delousing shed they must pass through on arrival reminds them of the “showers” in the Death Camps. People speak all different languages. Some were observant Jews, others from more assimilated families. Some were members of Zionist youth groups. A few people in the camp are not Jews at all. Are they spies or people looking for a better life after Europe was broken by the War?
“I was never the brave one,” Shayndel whispered. “In the forest, comrades were the heroes. I was a terrible shot, and after they died I was worthless. And my brother,” Shayndel wailed. “My brother should be here.” Leonie turned her around and held her tight. “We were supposed to be here together,” Shayndel cried. “It was Noah’s dream. I tagged along after him, and he was the best, the most wonderful…”
“You never told me about a brother,” said Leonie, stroking her hair.
“The worst thing is,” she started, and turned to avoid Leonie’s eyes. “I don’t even know how to say this, but we lived for this, Noah and me. We were so sure we would be happy here, but now all I feel is afraid. He would have been ashamed of me, but the truth is, I have never been so afraid in my whole life.”
I was reminded of Elie Wiesel’s books. You will be drawn into their world of change. The constant is their friendship.