$23.95ISBN: 9781101874318Availability: On Our Shelves NowPublished: Knopf Publishing Group - May 12th, 2015
As Jews are herded into the Warsaw Ghetto and the Nazi noose slowly chokes off all means of survival, The Book of Aron, by Jim Shepard takes us inside the ghetto’s overcrowded apartments, down its dangerous streets, through its warrens of underground passageways, fast on the heels of one small boy. Aron, never an easy child and always in trouble, begins to run wild with a group of hungry children. A pack of wolves, they roam together, sneaking in and out of the ghetto to find food, bartering with helpless widows who are willing to give up the shawls on their backs, the shoes on their feet in exchange for food for their families. But the wolf-children have families too—families they help support with their ill-gotten goods. The morality of survival.
Aron is not oblivious to morality. He adores his mother, even when he’s angry with her, and he understands loyalty to friends and family as well as anyone. But the ghetto is a complicated place where much of law enforcement is made up of the so-called Yellow Police, Jews used by the Nazis to maintain control through blackmail and threats. They, not to mention the Nazis themselves, wield far more power than mere boys are equipped to handle. On the other hand, Janusz Korczak, known worldwide for his understanding of children, runs the orphanage there, and it is assumed that his charges will be safe—even from the Nazi’s— protected by his fame.
When Aron finds his way to the compassionate Korczak and the relative safety of the orphanage, we hope for—long for—his survival. I won’t tell you whether our wish is granted. But I will say that this novel, which is by turns incandescent and chilling, funny, morally repellant, and compassionate, is a book you’ll never forget. I’ll be hearing Aron’s young voice—at once knowing and innocent, frightened and rebellious, full of anger and of yearning—for the rest of my life.