There is a commercial that runs here in New York for the United Staes Navy. It shows teenagers, young adults and various groups of people standing up to bullies, lending a helping hand and going above and beyond for their fellow humans. The question that is asked throughout this ad is “why do some people have it, and others don’t”. Sharon Cameron’s historical fiction young adult novel “The Light in Hidden Places” details the story of Stefania Podgorska who is one of those people who most certainly has “it”. It’s 1943, Stefania is sixteen years old and working in a grocery store owned by the Diamant family in Przemsyl, Poland. She has grown close to her employers and thinks of them as her chosen family. Despite the fact that the Diamant’s are Jewish and Stefania is Catholic they have welcomed her into their family with open arms. Secretly Izio, one of Mr and Mrs Diamant’s sons has a formal agreement to be married to Stefania. Even though his family adores Stefania they both know that their religions differing will interfere with their love. As World War Two rages on, the Germans make their way into Przemsyl and begin displacing the Jewish communities. Like their fellow practitioners, The Diamant’s are forced to not only close down their grocery, leave their home but are sent to live in a ghetto. Stefania is now alone but has to remain brave as she is the only one around to care for her six year old sister, Helena. As times continue to get tough and heartbreak is realized, more of the war begins to roll through and suddenly there is a knock on her door. Standing there is Max, Izio’s brother! He has escaped from a train heading towards a death camp and is seeking shelter. Stefania and her younger sister make the decision to take in Max as his family once did them and provide him with a place to hide out. Our heroine and her sister know that by doing this they are putting their own lives at risk and still make the choice to do the right thing.
As the days pass the girls take in more Jewish exiles paying no mind to the thought of the firing squad of Nazi’s they will face if they are ever caught. Now with thirteen Jewish hideaways the inevitable has happened, two Nazi soldiers are at their door and requisitioning their home for the German forces. With thirteen Jews hidden upstairs and two Nazis and her doorstep Stefania is forced to make another tough choice, turn in the people she has helped and surly end her and Helena’s lives or face the Nazis head on. This story is one filled with empathy, courage and a determination to do what’s right. Based on real people and real events I highly recommend this book to any and all history buffs out there!
CRITICS HAVE SAID:
“Haunting thrills unfurl.” — Entertainment Weekly
“Gripping twists, rich language, and an evocative landscape.” — Publishers Weekly
“[A] singularly polished piece.” — The Horn Book