Rating: Five stars
There is historical fiction, and then there’s Ellie Midwood. No Woman’s Land is a superb novel that brings the Minsk Ghetto to life in all of its harsh cruelty with a sense of hope and grace. Reading a story of the dour conditions of the Holocaust can be difficult on a reader, but Ms. Midwood has crafted a powerful story of the meaning of loyalty, friendship, and love in the bitterest of conditions.
One can’t help but cheer on ghetto occupants Ilse , Rivka, and Liza as they navigate the treacherous dog eat dog world of the ghetto while still holding on to the ultimate thing that keeps them alive: love. Although these three women, and others in the ghetto, come from diverging backgrounds, they form a solidarity as they keep each other together and the hope for freedom alive. Through this narrative, they discover the only thing that keeps one alive is love during the harshest of conditions.
I appreciate Ilse Stein’s character arc as we meet her as a timid, sheltered Jewish girl who arrives in Minsk after she and her sisters are resettled into the ghettos. There she meets women like Rivka and Liza, savvy leaders who lost husbands as the winds of war rage over the eastern front. Isle learns just how strong she is as she vows to survive and keep her sisters safe.
Although disillusioned and jaded, she learns to trust as she meets Willy Schultz, an officer in the Luftwaffe who befriends her. Their love story is sweet, tender, and real as they let their guards down while coming to terms with being from opposing sides.
This book left me wanting to know more of what becomes of Ilse, Willy, Liza, and all of their friends after the book ended, especially because these people existed during World War II. Highly recommended.