I picked this book up at a used book sale some time ago without really knowing anything about it other than what the liner notes indicated. Once I owned it, I'd hear it referred to by people as a sort of reference point for other writing, but had so many books on my "to read list" it hadn't quite made it to the top of my pile. But since it was included on the recent list of "100 novels that make you proud to be Canadian" (http://www.cbc.ca/books/books100.html), I decided to pick it up now; so glad I did!!
I've read a lot of books set around the holocaust and the fall out for survivors. This book, by far, is the best I've read for it's vivid portrayal of what it must have been like to be one of the "lucky ones" to have made it out alive. I expect there are many survivors who would argue though, that the lucky ones are the ones who don't have to live with the nightmares of what they endured and the knowledge of what humans are capable of doing to other humans.
Many reviews indicated that the second part of the book was inferior to the first part. I disagree. I felt that both parts were excellent in their own way. Jakob's story was certainly powerful and moving but so was Ben's. I really liked how Ben's "journey" was linked to Jakob's but was also a demonstration of the collateral damage related to such incredible trauma.
There is so much wisdom in here as well. Ms. Michaels is definitely poetic in her prose; a lot was left to the reader's own interpretation of the subtext. This book will stay with me for a long time to come. I highly recommend it if you enjoy a deeply thought-provoking story!