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.
“…Jenoff has written a tribute to the human spirit that soars.” NPR
"Readers who enjoyed Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale and Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants will embrace this novel. " —Library Journal
"Secrets, lies, treachery, and passion…. I read this novel in a headlong rush." —Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train
Some Q & A with Pam ~
Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you started writing.
I always wanted to be a writer, but for many years I never got started. For me the turning point was the events of 9/11. This marked an epiphany where I realized that I didn’t have forever, and that if I wanted to be a writer I needed to get started right away. So I took a night course called “Write Your Novel This Year.” At that point I was an attorney working full-time, so I used to write from five to seven in the morning before heading to the firm.
What are some things you enjoy when not writing?
Between raising three small children, writing and teaching law school, there isn’t a lot of free time! I enjoy spending time outdoors with my family, outlet shopping with my mom, going to Philadelphia Eagles games with my brother, and running. I would also like some sleep.
Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?
I do. I am a law school professor at Rutgers. My students are the best in the world. I love it!
Where do you get your ideas?
Generally speaking, my books are inspired by my years working on Holocaust issues for the State Department in Europe. I became very close to the survivors and was moved and changed by learning their stories. I call my books love stories to the people who lived during that most tragic era.
Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?
I give a lot of credit to Natalie Goldberg and her book Writing Down the Bones. Her writing approach, inspired by Zen Buddhism, where you just keep writing without allowing your inner editor to stop you, really broke me open as a writer and I continue to use it to this day.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
It was not a hop, skip and a jump to publication for me. Rather it was 5 years and 39 publisher rejections until one publisher (the same one I am with today) made a small offer 11 months after submission. Now that things have gone well lots of people in publishing like to act like they knew it all along. But I have rejection letters from all of them!
How do you market your work?
I don’t. I’m not the slightest bit entrepreneurial. But I have found that by building relationships with readers and other writers, supporting each other, you can organically develop a network of support.
What are you working on now?
A story about 12 female special agents from Britain who went missing in Europe during World War II and what might have happened to them.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences?
The Orphan’s Tale was inspired by two true stories I found in the Yad Vashem archives. The first was a horrific account of a train of unknown children, babies taken from their parents too young to know their own names and headed for a concentration camp. The second was the remarkable tale of a circus which rescued Jews. I combined these to create Noa, a young Dutch girl who finds the train and takes one of the babies. She finds refuge with a German circus that is sheltering Jews.
Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?
I can’t call it a favorite but a pivotal scene for me is the one where Noa finds the babies on the train. I knew it would be an opening scene but I wanted forever to write it because I knew that in order to do it justice, I was going to have to figuratively put my own children on that train. It was the scene that it broke me to write.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Don’t quit your day job! Joking, sort of. This is a tough business and it is important to have every possible support structure in place, financial, emotional, etc. It is important to be disciplined and carve out your writing time because no one is going to do it for you. Also be tenacious – the only difference between me and some much better writers I know is that on the path to publication, I didn’t give up.
What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?
Writing can be hard and lonely, but it is my rock star dream come true!
Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
First of all, thank you. Second, I really value the change to connect with readers on an individual basis, so please feel free to find me on e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or wherever you hang out online so we can continue the conversation.
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