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After liberation in May 1945, Daniel, a 14-year-old Latvian Jew, is treated in a field hospital in the British zone of partitioned Germany. A survivor of various concentration camps, Daniel fights to recover from starvation and disease. Racked by nightmares, a nearly nightly occurrence, Daniel finds sleep almost impossible. Through his love of nature, and pre-war memories, Daniel struggles to find comfort. He forms an intriguing bond with an older German gentile, another survivor. Later on, as he joins a theater troupe, Daniel tries to move on with his life, yet still searching for the whereabouts of his mother and two sisters. Poised on the cusp of a new life, young Daniel makes his way to the country that will become his new home.
Enjoy an Excerpt:
The July heat could sometimes get clammy and oppressive under the glare of the morning sun, but Daniel didn’t care about peripheral meteorological considerations. What he cared about as he traipsed and traversed the grounds, the meticulously mowed lawns, the proliferating lilacs always in bloom, was an sensation that rippled throughout his body, the entire network of valves and veins constituting his inner being, the framework of his soul and flesh, a feeling so powerful and ineffable, it always bubbled up inside his head, manifesting in three simple words – “I am alive.”
Sometimes he would say these words aloud, sometimes within the earshot of other patients, some ambulatory, others not, yet all who heard would faintly acknowledge Daniel’s prosaic but freighted affirmation of being with their own gesture of recognition and affinity, be it an askew nod, a wry smile or a knowing wink.
Like other survivors, Daniel was plagued with guilt, confusion, disorientation and shock – the symptoms of post-traumatic stress that sometimes felt more terminal than transitory. But there was another emotion he shared with them, or rather a byproduct of an emotion, as he wasn’t ever sure he could qualify it as one, and that was gratitude. And it was this thankfulness, this visceral appreciation of just how lucky he was when far worthier beings like Tante Masha and Cousin David had not been, which instilled him with awe and wonder during his outdoor digressions. “I am alive.”
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