Title: The Medallion
Author: Cathy Gohlke
Major Themes: Irena Sendler, Warsaw, Polish Underground, Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction, World War II, Books for Women
Synopsis: Two families, torn apart and yet connected by one little girl…can they trust God through everything that happens?
What a book. I was not planning to write a review for this website, but just a short one for Amazon, when I started reading The Medallion. I started reading it, and didn’t bother keeping track of anything that might need warnings—and a couple of days later realized that I had been sucked into the plot much more than with most books I read, and that it was a very good book. My dear daughter, who runs the website, said that, with the way I was having such a hard time putting the book down, I really should write a review for her. So, I finished the book and then skimmed through it a second time to find the warnings for her.
This book tells the stories of two couples, both of whom had been married one or two years when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939. Janek was a pilot with the Polish air force; his English wife Sophie worked in the library in Warsaw. Itzhak and Rosa were Polish Jews living in Vilna, Lithuania. Janek was never able to come home after the invasion, and Sophia, after having her third miscarriage, had to change her name and move to a different home for her safety. Itzhak and Rosa soon moved to Warsaw to care for Rosa’s mother, and then found themselves inside the ghetto.
As the war drags on and life becomes ever harder, Sophie began working in the Underground, helping where she could. At the same time, Itzhak and Rosa had to surrender their precious firstborn baby to Irena Sendler to save her life. Rosa sent half of the medallion Itzhak had given her on their wedding day with her baby. Would she ever see the little girl again? How many of them would even survive the war?
Cathy Gohlke has not whitewashed the war in this story. Some of the scenes she described were horrible—but true. She has shown the war the way it was for the common people caught in it, and how God protected some of them. I appreciated the theme that was woven throughout Sophie’s part of the story. Like so many of us women do, she tried to be in control of her life and make things happen the way she wanted them. This led to deceit; she lied repeatedly to herself and others—and, predictably, that led to the breakdown of the relationships she most treasured. I really liked the advice her foster sister gave her.
If you like books that make you think, that pull you in so you can hardly think of other things— The Medallion is a book for you. While it mentioned some very horrible things, and did not end happily for everyone, I still liked this book. I can’t really say enjoyed, because it shows how awful people can be to other people, but the love and care of some people to others who needed help and love shines through so brightly that I consider this to be a great book. I also appreciated a women’s fiction book that was not a romance. Cathy Gohlke is an author I will be watching for.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley, and these are my honest thoughts about it.
WARNING: Chapter 1 describes a bombing and shows the beginning stages of a miscarriage. Chapter 4 describes a man being shot by the Gestapo. Chapter 5 describes another man being shot. In Chapter 10 Rosa thinks about it being time for her monthly. Her mother talks about this infernal war. An allusion is made to marital intimacy. In Chapter 11 Sophie lies. Chapter 22 talks about an Aktion by the SS when many people were killed. Chapter 23 talks about another shooting, especially describing the deaths of two people Sophie had helped. Chapter 25 mentions more horrors. In Chapter 26 a guard is described who likes to shoot people, and the death of Rosa’s mother is described. Chapter 27 tells what happened to an underground school when it was discovered. Chapter 29 shows the SS killing homeless children, and talks about the weapons the Underground had. Chapter 30 mentions a courier being shot in the street. Chapter 31 tells how whole families were killed. There is another allusion to marital intimacy in that chapter. In Chapter 32, people are executed. In Chapters 34 and 36, men are forced to dig up rotting bodies and bury them, and in Chapter 38 these men learn that they will be executed. In Chapter 35 mention is made of Underground workers carrying cyanide capsules. More shooting in Chapter 37. Chapter 41: as handsome a devil as ever. Someone is accused of rape in Chapter 50.
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