Rating: 5 stars
“The Yellow Bird Sings” by Jennifer Rosner makes you hear the music. Rosner has a way with words that is truly lyrical.
I was a little hesitant to start a book set during the Holocaust in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. I thought about the parallels between our situation now and World War II. An uncontrollable force is targeting a group of people, many are trapped between locked down cities and the future is quite uncertain. But, reading this novel put our current situation into perspective. There was no internet to bring resources to Jews in hiding, no Netflix to make children obedient, etc. This story brought me hope at this uncertain time that the bonds we make with people are the things that bring us through hard times.
Roża is the mother of 5-year-old Shira. They escape to a nearby barn after her husband and parents are all killed by Nazis. With a small child in tow, Roża worries about how to keep Shira safe and fed, but most of all quiet. The yellow bird in the title of the book is the music that lives in young Shira. She’s a gifted child, who is able to hum complex melodies even at such a young age. Her mother knows that keeping her quiet is also stifling her gift, but feels she has no other option. Soon their barn refuge is taken away and Roża is presented with a choice: separate from her daughter by sending her to a possibly safer place or try to keep both of them alive in the Polish winter wilderness.
Through her young life, Shira is known by different names, but she never loses her identity. Her identity is tied to the music inside her, which is something she always associates with her mother. It’s a beautiful, hopeful novel about the bonds that tie us together and how those bonds are the things that help us survive. I absolutely recommend this novel and am looking forward to scooping up other books by Jennifer Rosner.
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