Elizabeth's Reviews > The Other Half of Life: A Novel Based on the True Story of the MS St. Louis

The Other Half of Life by Kim Ablon Whitney
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's review
Jun 20, 2011

it was amazing
Recommended for: historical fiction lovers 12 and up

** spoiler alert ** I thought that the novel by Kim Albon Whitney, The Other Half of Life, was fabulous. It is about a 15-year-old boy, Thomas Werkmann, who boards a ship, the St. Francis at Germany bound for Cuba and then the United States. His mother has sent him there alone with the hope that he can escape the horrors of Nazi Germany in the mid-1900s. His father is in a concentration camp. When Thomas boards the ship, he means the Aldett family and becomes very taken with their beautiful daughter Priska, who feels the same way. (Her younger sister, Marianne has a crush on him as well.) The ship's captain is not a member of the Nazi party, but the rest of it is, and the only thing keeping the crew from treating them the Jews the way they were treated back in Germany is the ship's captain. Thomas enjoys his time on the ship playing chess and talking with Priska, but he constantly worries about a rumor that says the Jews will be turned back to Germany and denied landing rights in Cuba. Meanwhile, Priska is always very happy, a bit naive, and optimistic about what will happen once they reach Cuba. One crew member has caught the attention of Thomas. The man walks with a cane, but Thomas believes that it is hollow and that the man is hiding something. Towards the end of the book, Thomas finds out that he is right, and the man is a spy for the Nazis. The man is killed accidentally. Then, the ship is turned back around to Europe, and Priska, Thomas, and others believe that they are saved because Holland, England, and Belgium have agreed to take them in, and they won't have to return to Germany. Little do they know, however, that by the end of the war, all three countries will have been occupied by the Nazi's and many people on the ship will be sent to concentration camps. The book ends with fast-forwards to 10 and 70 years later. Priska and Thomas agreed to meet after the war is over at a certain place, but we fast-forward ten years later and Thomas is at their meeting place, waiting for Priska. Instead, Marianne comes and tells him that Priska died in a concentration camp. We then fast-forward sixty years later and Marianne and Thomas are married with two children. Thomas is still in love with Priska, but he and Marianne are binded by their mutual love for her.

The Other Half of Life is a great book that is best suited for ages twelve and up. It is a thought provoking book of historical fiction. Mixed with history and romance, it appeals to readers with many different interests.

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