Upgrade to the Flash 9 viewer for enhanced content, including the ability to browse & search through your favorite titles.
Click here to learn more!
Fleeing an abusive home and trying to purge herself of self-destructive behaviors, Katerina, a teenage Ukranian peasant, is taken in by a Jewish family and becomes their housekeeper. Adopting their customs and rituals, feeling the warmth of family life for the first time, she is traumatized when the parents are murdered in separate pogroms and the children are taken away by relatives. She finds work with a series of other Jewish families, all of whom are subjected to relentless persecution by their neighbors, and she incorporates their observances into her own Christian life. But when the beloved child she has had with her Jewish lover is murdered by a jealous peasant, Katerina kills the murderer and is sent to prison. Released from prison in the chaos following the end of World War II, a now elderly Katerina is devastated to find a world emptied of its Jews and not at all sorry to see them gone. Ever the outsider, she realizes that she herself has survived so as to bear witness to the fact that these people had ever existed at all.
In his signature spare and haunting prose, Aharon Appelfeld contrasts unfathomable hatred with the unqualified and redemptive love of the Righteous Gentile and of a God who is never far from those who truly seek Him.
"In telling this story through Katerina's eyes, Appelfeld is able to portray anti-Semitism from the perspective of the non-Jew, while recording the freshness of the outrage as felt by a sympathetic gentile who is not in any way prepared for, let alone inured to, bearing the brunt of bigotry. Without taking the reader inside the living nightmare of the death camps, without showing a single scene of mass destruction, Appelfeld brilliantly recreates the climate of suspicion, fear, and deep-dyed prejudice that made these monstrous events possible." —Christian Science Monitor
"Appelfeld reimagines the place of his own origins through a perspective that in its generosity of feeling recalls Tolstoy and Chekhov." —Judith Grossman, New York Times Book Review
"Read this book. . . . Think what a gift of lyric language and style, of emotion purified by pain this is." —Anne Roiphe, Los Angeles Times
"Katerina is a fable, almost dreamlike in mood and language. Appelfeld draws the reader entirely into his world and makes that world seem utterly real; he works a kind of magic." —Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post