Mischling

A novel

Publisher: Vintage Canada
"One of the most harrowing, powerful, and imaginative books of the year" (Anthony Doerr) about twin sisters fighting to survive the evils of World War II.


Pearl is in charge of: the sad, the good, the past. Stasha must care for: the funny, the future, the bad.
     It's 1944 when the twin sisters arrive at Auschwitz with their mother and grandfather. In their benighted new world, Pearl and Stasha Zagorski take refuge in their identical natures, comforting themselves with the private language and shared games of their childhood.
     As part of the experimental population of twins known as Mengele's Zoo, the girls experience privileges and horrors unknown to others, and they find themselves changed, stripped of the personalities they once shared, their identities altered by the burdens of guilt and pain.
     That winter, at a concert orchestrated by Mengele, Pearl disappears. Stasha grieves for her twin, but clings to the possibility that Pearl remains alive. When the camp is liberated by the Red Army, she and her companion Feliks--a boy bent on vengeance for his own lost twin--travel through Poland's devastation. Undeterred by injury, starvation, or the chaos around them, motivated by equal parts danger and hope, they encounter hostile villagers, Jewish resistance fighters, and fellow refugees, their quest enabled by the notion that Mengele may be captured and brought to justice within the ruins of the Warsaw Zoo. As the young survivors discover what has become of the world, they must try to imagine a future within it.
     A superbly crafted story, told in a voice as exquisite as it is boundlessly original, Mischling defies every expectation, traversing one of the darkest moments in human history to show us the way toward ethereal beauty, moral reckoning, and soaring hope.

PRAISE FOR

“Konar uses the unsettling and grievous history of Dr. Josef Mengele’s experiments on children, particularly twins, to riveting effect in her debut novel.” —The New York Times

“Affinity Konar’s beautiful novel about twin sisters who survive Auschwitz is precisely crafted, acutely sensitive and ultimately uplifting and hopeful.” —Amazon Books editors 

Mischling . . . brings a terrible beauty to [this] story of Nazi brutality. . . . The fact that [Mengele’s torture] sounds too horrible to digest makes Konar’s achievement all the more significant. Mischling . . . is as much about humanity, friendship, love and resistance as it is about terror. And it is gorgeously written, even when the subject is outright torture. . . . Konar courageously delves deeply into the psychology of victimization and the pain of Jewish prisoners who were forced by Mengele to participate in his crimes. She’s also determined to examine the guilt of survivors both during their imprisonment . . . and after they are released. But the triumph here is in the gorgeousness of the writing. Konar seems single-handedly to have solved the dilemma of artists representing the Holocaust. The best revenge for brutality is beauty.” —NOW (Toronto)
 
“[I]t is lyrically told, poetical with a slight whiff of mysticism. . . . The novel is intense. . . . [I]t is an interesting take on the struggle for survival and its being told in the first person heightens the reader’s experience. . . . [A] strong work, harrowing, tough yet lyrical.” —The Millstone (Mississippi Mills, ON)

“[B]eautiful, powerful and often horrifying. . . . Mischling doesn’t shy from the horrors of this history, but Konar counters them with an intimate look at the deep bonds that can form in our darkest periods, whether it be between Pearl and Stasha or other victims who become surrogate caregivers even as they are put to work helping Mengele conduct his brutality.” —Calgary Herald
 
“Konar does not dwell on the horrors, but she does not stint on them either. . . . [She] is sensitive to the sleights of hand the twins adapt to survive. . . . And yet the book does not seem gimmicky or glib. . . . Konar also dares to show how even in this cesspool of cruelty, some compassion exists. —Rachel Shteir, The Boston Globe

Mischling is a paradox. It’s a beautiful novel about the most odious of crimes, it’s a deeply researched act of remembrance that somehow carries the lightness of a fairy tale, and it’s a coming-of-age story about children who aren’t allowed to come of age. If your soul can survive the journey, you’ll be rewarded by one of the most harrowing, powerful, and imaginative books of the year.” —Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See
 
“Affinity Konar is an astonishing and fearless writer whose great gift to us is this book. With incantatory magic, she marches through the most nightmarish of landscapes, swinging her light.” —Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!
                                                         
“A tale of courage, courageously told—spare and beautiful, riveting and heartrending. It’s a case of extraordinary storytelling from first page to transcendent last.” —David Wroblewski, author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
 
“A masterful and poignant account of a pair of twin sisters who cannot be separated,even by the cruelest hand of fate. Konar’s prose is mystical and delicately poetic. . . . A deeply engaging story of fortitude and triumph. Bravo.” —Lucette Lagnado, author of The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit

[A] harrowing debut novel. . . . Konar’s novel takes an unorthodox, though not unprecedented, approach to these horrors: She describes them beautifully, lyrically, in the language of a fable. . . . I do not remember the last time I shed so many tears over a work of fiction. . . . [R]eaders who allow themselves to fall under the spell of Konar’s exceptionally sensitive writing may well find the book unforgettable.” —The New York Times Book Review
 
“In Mischling . . . author Affinity Konar weaves an intensely emotional tale. . . . Told in alternating chapters, Mischling portrays each girl’s unique expression of her experience. . . . The brokenness they endure and their longing for one another are captured in painful detail, and Konar is unflinching in her portrayal of Mengele’s experiments. . . . Glimmers of light in this darkness are faint but persistent, and the unspeakable horrors are tempered with some grace. . . . Her writing bears a pointed edge, but also has a striking cadence that is often beautiful and poetic.” —BookPage
 
“[M]s. Konar makes the emotional lives of her two spirited narrators piercingly real. . . . What is most haunting about the novel is Ms. Konar’s ability to depict the hell that was Auschwitz, while at the same time capturing the resilience of many prisoners, their ability to hang on to hope and kindness in the face of the most awful suffering. . . . Ms. Konar … powerfully convey[s] the experiences of her heroines: their resourcefulness and will to survive; their resilience and faith in a future even in the face of extermination; and Pearl’s remarkable determination to embrace forgiveness.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Konar makes every sentence count; it’s to her credit that the girls never come across as simply victims: they’re flawed, memorable characters trying to stay alive. This is a brutally beautiful novel.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“Konar’s novel is filled with exquisitely crafted phrases. . . . [T]he aesthetic achievement of Mischling cannot redeem the world after Auschwitz. It merely illuminates it, woefully, brilliantly.” —The Dallas Morning News
 
“This is not an easy novel to read, but Affinity Konar’s evocative storytelling, fierce characters and haunting prose make Mischling . . . equally hard to put down. . . . Konar is matter of fact about the horrific scenes at Auschwitz; no added adjectives are needed to make these scenes burn in the brain. . . . Like many identical twins, Pearl and Stacha are sometimes hard to tell apart, but they are resilience and hope personified. . . . Pearl and Stacha are enduring, endearing characters that readers of their saga won’t be able to forget.” —USA Today (3.5/4 stars)