THE WARSAW SISTERS by Amanda Barratt
GENRE: Historical Fiction (Christian)
RELEASE DATE: November 7, 2023
On a golden August morning in 1939, sisters Antonina and Helena Dąbrowska send their father off to defend Poland against the looming threat of German invasion. The next day, the first bombs fall on Warsaw, decimating their beloved city and shattering the world of their youth.
When Antonina’s beloved Marek is forced behind ghetto walls along with the rest of Warsaw’s Jewish population, Antonina turns her worry into action and becomes a key figure in a daring network of women risking their lives to shelter Jewish children. Helena finds herself drawn into the ranks of Poland’s secret army, joining the fight to free her homeland from occupation. But the secrets both are forced to keep threaten to tear the sisters apart–and the cost of resistance proves greater than either ever imagined.
Shining a light on the oft-forgotten history of Poland during WWII and inspired by true stories of ordinary individuals who fought to preserve freedom and humanity in the darkest of times, The Warsaw Sisters is a richly rendered portrait of courage, sacrifice, and the resilience of our deepest ties.
“War left everything in fragments. Even bonds that should be unbreakable.”
From the opening words of The Warsaw Sisters, I found myself immersed in this story of twin sisters whose once-immutable bond will be tested by the unmerciful ravages of war. Most especially, I was drawn by the author’s poignant way with words and her ability to put the reader into the shoes of her characters, living the story through Antonina and Helena’s eyes as we experience every agonizing, beautiful, tragic, and triumphant moment with them. Knowing that what we’re reading about is based on real people and real events makes it all the more meaningful.
I don’t remember learning much about Poland’s role in World War 2, an unfortunate educational oversight as the stories I’ve read on the pages of fiction by authors like Amanda Barratt teach me about brave and resilient people who chose to stand up for what was right at great personal cost. Like Antonina and Helena in The Warsaw Sisters, these are ordinary people who became extraordinary heroes. I have read about people who sheltered Jewish children in a few books, and I’ve read about the Home Army in a couple of other novels. But this was the most immersed I have been behind the lines with this grassroots resistance movement – including many women – that fought valiantly against the cruelty of the German forces and saved countless lives. Barratt’s compelling narrative in this novel made me want to learn even more about the Polish people and their response during WW2.
One thing I appreciated about Antonina and Helena is that they are simultaneously flawed and heroic. I think too often we feel like we can’t make a difference because we haven’t quite got our own act together yet, but these two young women are just like us in all the ways that truly matter. They grieve, they fall in love, they fight with each other, they cherish happy memories, they jump to conclusions, they love poetry, they love music, they give in to temptation, they act on emotion, they react in fear or anger, they want to help those who need it, they care about their friends, they lose hope, they doubt God, they grow up, they forgive. In seeing ourselves in these two sisters, we appreciate the story on deeper levels, and this author is exceptionally talented at helping us do so.
The spiritual threads in this story, while subtle, are touching and heartfelt and relatable. There are so many quotes I could share as proof (my Kindle copy is highlighted to the hilt), but perhaps this one sums it up most perfectly:
For in the moments when it seemed no heart could bear such emptiness, I had learned God is nearest in our shattered places.
The reminder that, even when everything else falls apart, God remains is a beacon of hope for readers in the middle of their own battles, be they emotional, mental, spiritual, relational, or physical.
Bottom Line: The Warsaw Sisters is another profoundly emotional novel by Amanda Barratt, in which she highlights unsung heroes who dared to step up rather than look away. As we are given snapshots of Helena and Antonina’s respective journeys over a period of several years, we get a front row seat to their lives during war. The characters are layered and complex – no cardboard cutouts here! – and, while the story doesn’t sugarcoat the atrocities that happened in Poland, the author keeps hope lurking between the lines, kept alive by weary souls who refused to give up. Subplots of romance, friendship, and faith bring moments of light to the heavier history being told, balancing the narrative with just the right amounts of each. A must-read for fans of Pam Jenoff or Cathy Gohlke.
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 4.5 stars / loved it!
Amanda Barratt is the bestselling author of numerous historical novels and novellas, including The White Rose Resists (a 2021 Christy Award winner) and Within These Walls of Sorrow (a 2022 Christy Award finalist). She is passionate about illuminating oft-forgotten facets of history through a fictional narrative. Amanda lives in Michigan. Learn more at AmandaBarratt.net.
Other Featured Books by Amanda Barratt
(US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What makes you want to read The Warsaw Sisters by Amanda Barratt?