Author Martha Hall Kelly gets up close and personal with Kasia, a young Polish girl with Jewish ancestry who is completing secret missions for the underground anti-war efforts and is captured by the Gestapo with her sister and her mother. One of these unforgettable characters is Herta, an out of work, German doctor who is offered a job at the women’s re-education camp and forced to execute by lethal injections. The second is Caroline, a New York Francophile who sent supplies to the orphanages in France and who becomes a hero and savior to many.
Each chapter is about one of the three women; we learn about their everyday lives and challenges, love, relationships, hope and dreams as they navigate life during the war. The most inspiring character for me is the reality-based Caroline Ferriday. She works for the French consulate, sending money and supplies to those in France during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Ultimately she learns of the Rabbits, this courageous group of young women being held at the concentration camp who were victims of a tragic medical experiment…horrible surgeries performed on them unnecessarily, their legs mangled and infected on purpose by the camp doctors to see what medicines worked, how much pain could be tolerated and which infections could be treated. Many women died of this horrendous torture, but approximately 75 strong willed victims survived. After Hitler was defeated, Caroline sought them out and brought all of these women to NYC for medical treatment and a tour of the United States.
If you have the chance to see author Martha Hall Kelly speak, do it! You will hear about her research process for this book and how she travelled to Poland and had the privilege of meeting and interviewing several of the surviving Rabbits. She has also spent countless hours at Caroline Ferriday’s summer house in Connecticut where the women stayed when they came overseas. Her information-gathering and writing process along with her book, Lilac Girls, are fascinating, and lucky for us, a prequel is in the making! My book group and I were thrilled to spend a little time with Martha, hearing the back story and asking some questions. Lilac Girls is a book not to be missed!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Martha is a native New Englander who lives in Connecticut and Martha’s Vineyard. She worked as an advertising copywriter for many years, raised three wonderful children who are now mostly out of the nest and Lilac Girls is her first novel. She is hard at work on the prequel to Lilac Girls. You’ll find more info about the true story behind Lilac Girls at her website: www.marthahallkelly.com and on Pinterest.