Sixteen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier and being forced to give up her baby. She lives above a small rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep… When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the child that was taken from her. And in a moment that will change the course of her life, she snatches one of the babies and flees into the snowy night. Noa finds refuge with a German circus, but she must learn the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, spurning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid. At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond. But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their friendship is enough to save one another—or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything.
I love WWII books. They are my bread and butter and I was so excited to find a new twist on one. I absolutely loved the addition of the circus and the magical atmosphere. Noa and Astrid are two women with secrets and they managed to forge such a strong friendship despite everything. Astrid is a woman of Jewish faith who marries a German soldier. She comes from a long line of circus performers and when her husband leaves her because of the fact that she is Jewish, she is devastated and decides to join a competing circus since her family has disappeared. Noa has a one night affair with a German soldier and is kicked out of her family home when she learns she is pregnant. Her child is taken away from her, but she gets a second chance at motherhood when she rescues a baby boy from a boxcar full of Jewish babies, on their way to their deaths.
One of the things I loved about this book was that the romance was very subtle. The focus was on the friendship between these two very strong women. Astrid distrusts Noa and is worried that her secret will be found out. I had no idea that there were circus people who basically hid Jewish people among their workers to give them a job and to hide them. The author stated in her author's note that she had read about this and was intrigued. I was definitely intrigued to hear this. The owner of the circus in this book risked his life to hide Astrid and Noa's baby, among others. What a crazy time to live in. Noa learned how to become an aerialist so that she can earn her place in the circus. I know Noa was a gymnast at one point, but I still thought it a little convenient that she was able to learn the act so quickly. But given that, there were still wonderful scenes in the circus and behind the scenes. Being an aerialist involves a lot of trust and committing herself to this act allows Noa to gain Astrid's trust and respect.
This book was full of magical scenes with the circus and also a lot of suspense and fear with checkpoints and the Nazi regime. There were these moments when the circus performers put on their act and you could almost forget the despair of the war because there is just so much hope and beauty with the performers. But the author never lets you forget the stakes or what could happen to both go these women. There was a little insta-love with Noa, but I am so glad that it was a subplot and not one of the major points of focus. Both of these women have lost loved ones and family but they find what they have been missing from each other. This was such a beautiful story. Yes, there are incredibly sad moments (it is a WWII book after all), but there are some beautiful ones as well. Great book!
Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one!