This novel, which was originally titled Songbird in hardback, is an interesting Holocaust tale, if you could call it that. While stories of this ilk are numerous and generally pretty similar, this one is unique. Zacharius based this on a true story of a Jewish woman he met, who worked with the resistance during the war.
The story starts out in 1975, when middle-aged Mia Levy gets a surprise letter on her kibbutz in Israel. Her former lover from several decades earlier is on a plane, coming to see her. The letter brings back a flood of memories.
In 1939, Mia Levy is 17 and a promising pianist, vacationing with her well-to-do family when the Germans invade her native Poland. Forced out of their home, the Levys soon find themselves on a train headed toward Treblinka. Realizing their fate, they band together to save Mia, who gets pushed out of the train.
Mia eventually finds herself in Warsaw, where she is recruited into the resistance. From there, she is smuggled out of Poland and gradually makes her way into Switzerland, experiencing love, loss, and plenty of horror along the way. From Switzerland, she makes her way to New York, where she lives with relatives.
But her memories of Poland haunt her still. Even though she has a chance at happiness in the U.S., and meets the love of her life, Vinnie, a fellow musician, Mia's thirst for vengeance gets her involved in the resistance movement again, and she is sent back to Europe to work undercover for the Allies. She becomes Odette LeClerc, working as a dominatrix at a Paris brothel and extracting secrets from the Nazi officers whom she entertains.
This part of the story ends with the Americans liberating Paris in 1944, Vinnie among them. Odette is given the message that Vinnie is coming to meet her, but a set of circumstances prevents their long-awaited reunion.
Back to 1975, Mia finally reunites with her beloved Vinnie. And while the novel doesn't end happily, it does end with hope.
This is an engrossing and thrilling read, although at times it doesn't seem possible that this book is based on real events. It is at times pretty graphic, but if you can handle that, and you like World War II novels, The Memories We Keep will hold your interest.