In France we meet a father and his daughter Marie-Laure, who is doomed to become blind. They will carry an important secret to St Malo, where they will go in search for other members of their family.
In Germany, we are introduced to orphaned children, a brother and sister, Werner and Jutta, whose prospects are very bleak. They must live by their wits if they are even to survive. Fortunately they are being cared for by a kindly, dedicated Protestant nun, who encourages them to play in and explore their fairly limited world. During this time, they find a radio, and Werner manages to fix it. This is the start not only of being able to listen to the local news, but also broadcasts of an educationally scientific nature from France.
Werner is smart and curious, and bit by bit becomes very interested in science, and skilled at fixing radios. He is desperate to avoid his father’s fate – being sent to work in the mines when he reaches 15. Without such a threat in front of her, Jutta is able to take a more balanced view of her world.
Eventually the lives of these growing children intertwine as the calamitous world events unfold.
It is a story of redemption. Great evils occur, yet there is goodness in this bleak world. Forgiveness is possible in spite of great and irreversible destruction, because this goodness exists and is not entirely extinguished.
Anthony Doerr has given us the gift of a great and moral tale.