Mischling by Affinity Konar

March 28, 2017 Whitney Review 2 Comments

Mischling by Affinity KonarMischling by Affinity Konar
Published by Lee Boudreaux Books on September 6th 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Source: Gift

"One of the most harrowing, powerful, and imaginative books of the year" (Anthony Doerr) about twin sisters fighting to survive the evils of World War II.

Pearl is in charge of: the sad, the good, the past.
Stasha must care for: the funny, the future, the bad.
It's 1944 when the twin sisters arrive at Auschwitz with their mother and grandfather. In their benighted new world, Pearl and Stasha Zagorski take refuge in their identical natures, comforting themselves with the private language and shared games of their childhood.

As part of the experimental population of twins known as Mengele's Zoo, the girls experience privileges and horrors unknown to others, and they find themselves changed, stripped of the personalities they once shared, their identities altered by the burdens of guilt and pain.

That winter, at a concert orchestrated by Mengele, Pearl disappears. Stasha grieves for her twin, but clings to the possibility that Pearl remains alive. When the camp is liberated by the Red Army, she and her companion Feliks--a boy bent on vengeance for his own lost twin--travel through Poland's devastation. Undeterred by injury, starvation, or the chaos around them, motivated by equal parts danger and hope, they encounter hostile villagers, Jewish resistance fighters, and fellow refugees, their quest enabled by the notion that Mengele may be captured and brought to justice within the ruins of the Warsaw Zoo. As the young survivors discover what has become of the world, they must try to imagine a future within it.

A superbly crafted story, told in a voice as exquisite as it is boundlessly original, Mischling defies every expectation, traversing one of the darkest moments in human history to show us the way toward ethereal beauty, moral reckoning, and soaring hope.

Mischling by Affinity Konar is a historical fiction novel on a subject that is rarely touched in this genre — Josef Mengele. The Holocaust is filled with many, unimaginable horrors but “the zoo” in Auschwitz is repulsive. The “experiments” preformed were enough to make one ill. However, the main story is not of blindness but of a set of twins and their undying love and commitment to one another.

Pearl and Stasha are of one mind, they can experience the other’s pain and finish their sister’s sentences, they are unique in their twiness. The story is told in two parts with each sister as a narrator. I enjoyed this division and gave two separate voices. While Pearl and Stasha claiming sameness, it was clear to me that they were their own individuals as well. Pearl was the more mature and realistic of the two and looked forward to her sections more, the realism was detailed, unnerving and appreciated the more adult approach. Stasha on the other hand, was imaginative and glosses over the evil to some degree. This was a much needed break after reading Pearl’s interpretation and felt it was a good contrast.

The second half of the book was set after the liberation of the camp and their adjustment to their new reality was heartbreaking. Not only were the girls separated and therefore searching for their other half but had to deal with great loss and the realization that life as they knew it has drastically changed.

Mischling is beautifully written with each sentence being a lilting ode. I looked forward to read Affinity Konar’s novel each night as each word was fire and music.

Mischling was a very satisfying read. It began with the innocence of a child who slowly wakes to the harshness of the world. Affinity Konar weaved a delicate web with a brightness at the end of the tunnel. Overall, I find Mischling to be a must-read novel that will tear you in two.


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