Jillian Cantor’s The Lost Letter is an intriguing dual narrative, half set in Austria during 1938, the other in California during 1989. In Berlin, Kristoff, who is not Jewish, acquires an apprenticeship under a Jewish stamp engraver who disappears during Kristallnacht. In order to survive, and to protect his teacher’s spirited daughter, Elena, Kristoff is forced to engrave stamps for the Germans, while working with the Austrian resistance to send secret messages and forging papers. Kristoff struggles to save himself and Elena, who he’s fallen for despite the terrible circumstances of war.
In California, Katie Nelson finds her father’s stamp collection while cleaning out her house in the aftermath of a lonely divorce. Battling dementia, her father can no longer help decipher the meaning or value of his prized collection. Kate enlists a stamp appraiser, Benjamin, to help her understand her father’s obsession with the stamps. What was he looking for all those years? Are any of the stamps valuable? Are any of them special? When Benjamin discovers an unusual Austrian WWII stamp on a mysterious letter he and Kate embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Just as the Berlin wall falls, they discover a tale of tragedy, passion, and love that has endured the test of time.
The Lost Letter is an unusual twist on WWII stories that keeps the pages turning. Cantor does a wonderful job depicting the tragedies of WWII, without being too graphic. I had a difficult time putting this alluring story down. I wanted more and couldn’t wait to see what happened to Kristoff and how to discover how the two narratives would unfold. If you’d like to give it a go, you can find it here.
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