Oftentimes I turn to books for comfort; for a spark of joy in moments of uncertainty and spells of anxiety. And more times than not, books respond with a soothing sense of hope. The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel was exactly that sanguine story of courage and resilience that I needed.
Elderly librarian, Eva Traube Abrams, has spent the last sixty years attempting to erase the painful memories of her past—a past in which hardships and heartbreak lurked around every corner and split-second decisions were required of her every day. Eva’s present-day peers do not know that she spent her early twenties painstakingly forging legal documents in the underground French Resistance during World War II. Eva sacrificed her own safety and well-being to aid hundreds of children over the French border into neutral land.
Regarding this ingenious and powerful woman as a hero in The Book of Lost Names would be an understatement. Eva was the guiding light to countless refugees who never even knew she existed. But this incredible display of determination did not come easy to Eva—as I’m certain one would expect. Amidst the weighting pressures of Eva’s tasks was her personal battle with her faith and religion, navigating her changed relationship with her mother, coming to terms with the loss of her father, and the immense love she feels for one irresistible and impossibly charming friend.
Now, in Eva’s present day, when historians uncover a secret wartime text that holds an indecipherable code, Eva is met with the decision to re-open her past wounds of her time in the Resistance.
As a reader in search of a spark of hope, I completely lost myself in Kristin Harmel’s latest historical fiction release. Perhaps my infatuation with this compelling story was rooted in the persistent theme of cherishing books. Being a librarian, Eva’s love for the written word is pronounced right from the start. But as readers journey into her past and explore the ways in which Eva aligned with the Resistance, they meet countless characters that reiterate the power that one gains by loving books. From small children discovering meaning in the words of magical stories to apprehensive Resistance members finding trust in other book-loving colleagues, books continually appeared as a relic of hope in this story. And I, for one, find great comfort in knowing books continue to bring light to the world’s seemingly relentless turmoil.
The Book of Lost Names is truly a story about finding strength in times of uncertainty, light in a world of darkness, and the courage to choose what’s right, even if that means abandoning an entire life you may never live again.
In times of hopelessness or if you’re simply looking to pick up a charming historical read, I’d absolutely turn to Kristin Harmel’s The Book of Lost Names. Ultimately for the reason justified by Eva’s ally, a bookstore clerk, “Because books bring us to another time and place . . . and you look as if you need that.”