The Girl From the Train

Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Aushwitz. Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks.

As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They intend to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.

Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her in. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.

But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families—so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.

Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.

**I received a copy of this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.**

Have you ever had one of those books that you notice, and want to read, but decide not to. And then something happens and you read it. And you enjoy it. The Girl from the Train was one of those books for me.

I saw it floating around. I was interested in it. Wanted to read it, but I felt as though my heart has been broken enough with novels centered around WWII. Then it showed up in my mailbox. What I found in this book though, while it still possessed elements of tragedy and despair, was both hope and healing.

The Girl from the Train is a book that has a story that just lingers. There is something about the childish understanding of the main character, Gretl,  in the beginning that just grips you. She’s surrounded by the effects of Nazi Germany and the upheaval communism was causing in Europe. Gretl is affected by so much, but yet, the girl seems to have a spark of hope that can’t be extinguished.

Then, in contrast to her childhood, she is destined for South Africa, where so many oppurtunities are presented to her. It is here, that hope and healing find their way into the book and really wrap themselves around the reader.

I found The Girl from the Train to be a fascinating book. It was thought-provoking as it wrestled with questions of identity and our own personal histories. I highly recommend it.

Girl from the train will be released November 3, 2015

“In time buried hurt becomes an abscess. It must rupture and form a scab before it can heal. Or be carefully lanced by someone who know what he’s doing.”

-Grandpa John, The Girl from the Train

About the Author:
International bestselling author Irma Joubert lives and works in South Africa and write in her native Afrikaans. A teacher for thirty-five years, Irma began to write after her retirement. She is the author of either novels and is a regular fixture on bestseller listes in both South Africa and The Netherlands. Irma and her husband Jan have been married for forty-five years, and they have three sons and a daughter, two daughters-in-law, a son-in-law, and three grandchildren. The Girl from the Train is her first novel to be translated into English.


6 thoughts on “The Girl From the Train

  1. I really want to read this book. I wasn’t sure about buying a copy, because I generally don’t enjoy war stories. From your review, and a few others, I think it would be worth the money to pick up a copy. Great review :-)!


    1. While part of the story does involve the war, it really isn’t heavy on that at all. There are a couple chapters of it, but most just follow Gretl and her story of growing up. It was a fantastic book!


  2. We are reading the same books again! We do that frequently. I really enjoyed this book. Very interesting characters! I’ve read some great WWII novels in the past few months and I wasn’t sure how this one would stack up, but I really enjoyed it. Sounds as though you agree!



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