Cilka’s Journey

Griffin: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2019. 352p. ISBN 9781250265708. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250265791. F
Morris’s sophomore novel (The Tattooist of Auschwitz) follows a brave young Czech woman from Auschwitz-Birkenau to the gulag at Vorkuta, a Siberian prison labor camp. When the Soviets liberate Birkenau, they sentence 18-year-old Cilka Klein to 15 years hard labor for prostitution and espionage, though she was repeatedly raped by a German officer. En route to Siberia by cattle train, Cilka is fortunate to befriend Josie, who thereafter protects her like a sister. Cilka endures bitterly cold conditions with few provisions, repeated rape, and humiliation but forms a ragtag family with the 20 women of Hut 29. Haunted by the horrible years at Birkenau and the loss of her mother and sister, she longs for a better future. Offered a job in the hospital, she trains as a nurse under the tutelage of a compassionate Georgian volunteer, Dr. Yelena. As Cilka’s responsibility grows, from the maternity ward, the infectious disease ward, and the ambulance, she feels purpose and contentment despite the horrors of the gulag where she will spend eight years.
VERDICT Fans of Pam Jenoff will enjoy Cilka’s incredible story of bravery and love.

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