“The doors of decision are one-way only. You can never go back. I’ll never be the same person again.”
Ben Solomon, a survivor of the Nazi invasion of Poland, is watching TV one day in his older years and sees a face he could never forget. The man who lived with his family and then turned his back on them is alive and well and living in Chicago, a pillar of the community. Ben decides to confront the man he knows as Otto, but is known to all of Chicago as Elliot Rosenzweig, only to have Elliot adamantly deny that he is Otto. In fact, he is himself a survivor of Auschwitz and has a tattoo to prove it. However, Ben has people who believe his story – why would he lie?
I love historical fiction and ran across this book in a sale aisle of a bookstore. I bought it and added it to my to-read pile. I then chose it for the May Online Book Club book. I have to say I am very glad to have come across this book.
Ben’s case is presented to a lawyer, Catherine, who agrees to hear out his story and then decide if any case can be made against Elliott. Otto, a German, lived with Ben’s family, Polish Jews, before the war started. To save his life, he finally left their family to work for the Germans in the hopes of helping Ben’s family. Ben claims Otto was given some of his family’s property and never returned it to them, but used it to create the insurance businesses he now owns. As Catherine hears his story, she begins to believe him, but they have to find evidence to prove Elliott is Otto and time is running out. Justice comes at a price and Catherine also has to decide if she’s willing to pay it. The story is about love, family, loyalty, corruption and justice.
Lovers of historical fiction will really enjoy this book. I was captivated by the story and got through the book rather quickly. At some points it was hard not to look ahead to find out how it was going to end. There are a few parts where the characters talk about WWII in very factual ways that don’t seem like real conversations, but the details do add to the story. The book is for adults as it deals with some hard situations with Nazis and WWII.