Author Alyson Richman offers a hauntingly beautiful story of love lost and then found many years later, paralleling the story of the surviving Holocaust victims, their losses and their struggle to regain some of life’s joys, while never forgetting those that they lost. A large part of the tale takes place in Czechoslovakia before and during World War II, where Lenka, an art student and Josef, a medical student meet and fall in love. They marry just as Jewish citizens are scrambling to escape from the approaching Nazi army. Josef and his family are able to obtain passage to the United States but because Lenka’s family cannot do the same, she refuses to leave with Josef, staying behind with her family. Josef promises to send for Lenka and her family as soon as he is able.
First, Lenka’s family is shipped off to Terezin, a prison camp in Czechoslovakia. There they suffer much hardship, although Lenka is able to use her artistic skills to produce objects for the Nazis and to give some purpose to life. Eventually the family is sent to Auschwitz where only Lenka survives. Josef loses his family in a shipwreck on their way to the United States. He arrives alone in New York. Although the couple has frantically tried to communicate with one another, through the confusion of the war each mistakenly learn that the other hasn’t survived.
After the war each remarry; Josef to a fellow refugee whose loss of family has permanently damaged her life and colored their marriage with sorrow; Lenka to an American Jewish soldier who is part of the liberating army, their marriage has more joy in it. Life continues for Josef and Lenka. Eventually both are widowed. Coincidentally, Josef and Lenka each have a grandchild who fall in love with one another and marry. It is on that wedding day that Josef and Lenka discover one another again.