Sunday, November 13, 2016

Miscalling by Affinity Konar

This was an amazing, though very difficult, story to read.  Konar tells the fictional story of twin sisters who found themselves in Auschwitz and the victims of Mengele's cruel experiments.

Pearl and Stasha are12 years old when they are rounded up in the Lodz Ghetto together with their mother and paternal grandfather, a former respected biology professor.  Their father, a doctor, had disappeared in the ghetto's early days when he went off to treat a sick child and never returned.  The official story was he committed suicide.  After days of suffering in a box car, while their grandfather amused them with biology games, they arrive at Auschwitz.  Spying Mengele's interest in a set of triplets, the girls' mother asks a guard whether it is a good thing to be a multiple.  He affirms that it is and the girls are dragged from beneath their grandfather's coat and handed over to Mengele.

From here we see the horrors of Mengele's experiments from the eyes of his victims as he tortures not only twins, but albinos, little people, and even Jews who he felt looked strangely Aryan and he needed to figure out why.  While we see his cruelty and that of others such as "the Ox" who was in charge of the girls' barracks, Mengele's nurse, Elma and the guard, Taube, we also see those who try to offer small kindnesses in the face of horrors such as the Jewish Dr. Miri who was forced to engage in terrible acts of cruelty and "Twins' father" who was in charge of the boys' barracks and made a point of cataloguing every child that moved in and out of there in an effort to preserve their identities in some small way.  The girls were also able to make some alliances, with Bruna an albino petty criminal who taught them how to steal provisions, Peter, a Mengele favourite who was able to move freely about the camp in his capacity as messenger and "Patient", later known as Feliks who loses his twin early on and becomes both broken and bent on revenge.

When the camp is liberated Stasha and Feliks set out together to avenge the disappearance of their twins.  In their weakened states they believe they can track down and kill Mengele.  And so we follow them as they discover the destruction of Poland following the war and we see how the strength of their spirit allows them to survive even though they cannot achieve their impossible goal.

The book was well written - I loved how it alternated between the perspectives of Pearl and Stasha.  It painted a vivid, though horrific, picture of what happened in Mengele's world as well as the long lasting effects of his torture on his victims who were lucky enough to survive (and at many times I'm sure did not consider themselves the lucky ones).

I highly recommend this book, though be prepared for some lingering horrific pictures in your head.

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