This was a different take on the Holocaust story - some of it quite familiar and usual; other parts more imaginative.
The book follows the lives of two girls whose paths cross once one is already elderly. The first is Hannah Rosenthal. She is a Jewish girl living in a privileged family in Berlin, until 1939. When the Nazis take over, and place more and more restrictions on Jews, her family uses all available resources to get visas to leave. Eventually Hannah, her father, her pregnant mother and her best friend Leo and his father get visas to Cuba and passage on the infamous SS St. Louis. Hannah and her mother get the "right kind of visa" and are allowed to disembark in Havana. Her father, Leo and his father are turned back to Europe, with predictable results.
The second girl we meet is Anna. She lives with only her mother as her father was killed on 9/11, before knowing Anna had even been conceived. She lives with the shadow of his death and her mother's depression - talking every night to the only photo of her father that she keeps by her bed. Anna's mother is roused from despair when the pair get a letter from Hannah. It turns out she is the aunt who raised Anna's father in Havana. The pair travel to Havana and there learn more about the lives of Hannah, her brother (Anna's grandfather) and Anna's father. We also learn how Hannah's father came to have the midtown Manhattan apartment which Anna and her mother now reside in.
The story travels back and forth in time and place - from Berlin to New York, from 1939 to 2011, from on board the very luxurious St. Louis, to Cuba both before and after the communist revolution.
The book was interesting - you couldn't help but admire Hannah's immense spirit in the face of a life time of tragedies. As I said at the beginning some of the Holocaust parts were rather predictable, but the connections to Cuba and 9/11 were imaginative and kept me focused.