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orphan's tale book coverReviewed by Savannah Sawyer

The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff was life changing in a way that I’ve never experienced with any other book. I picked up this novel thinking it was simply an account of a girl who snatched an infant from a train cart destined for doom on a terribly freezing night. Instead, Jenoff gifted me the privilege of following Noa on her journey and witnessing her transformation from a timid young girl to a resilient and self-assured aerialist.

Noa was kicked out of her home mercilessly by her father after spending a long night under the sheets and becoming pregnant with a German man at the fresh age of fifteen. She sought refuge at a home for pregnant, vagrant women, planning to give up her baby the moment it was born. Noa gave birth shortly after arriving, and bonded with her baby before having him snatched away and more than likely sent to imminent death since he wasn’t the Aryan baby that most favored in Nazi-Germany. After giving birth, Noa became truly homeless.

While working tirelessly with heavy spirits and a broken heart, one night Noa came across an ill-guarded train cart full of babies, freezing to death. She grabbed the one most similar looking to the baby that she birthed and lost, and made a run for it.

On her way to nowhere, the weather that proved too much for many of the frozen infants soon overwhelmed Noa as well, exhausting her to the point of unconsciousness in the midst of another snowstorm. Fortunately, a member of a local circus found her and the baby, pulled them out of the snow, and carried them in his arms to safety.

From this moment on, Noa forms a challenging yet unbreakable bond with Astrid, a Jewish aerialist at the circus. Astrid becomes Noa’s coach, both in the ring and in life. Essentially, Astrid becomes the mother that the misdirected and disheartened orphan girl truly needs.

This tragedy does not romanticize Nazi-Germany or the struggles that were faced by Jewish men, women, and children all over Europe. This is the story of a young girl that gives everything to save the life of the Jewish baby that she rescued. A young girl that comes to recognize her self worth, but never abandons her humanity. This is a story of survival and a story of hope. I guarantee you that you will walk away with a strong sense of encouragement and pride, your faith in humanity having been wholly repaired. It is truly heartwarming to witness a nation come together to protect those deemed to be outcasts, and those labeled as worthless.

If I had to describe this book to you in only three words, I would offer these: Breathtaking; Heartwarming; Inspiring.


Savannah is a hard-of-hearing high school senior taking college courses in English and Early Childhood Education. Having once been a competitive writer, her work has appeared in several unsystematic places. Currently, her passions for reading, writing, children, and the Deaf community are coming together in a children’s book that’ll be judged and reviewed by Educators Rising this spring.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by MIRA. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.