by Affinity Konar

Overview - "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.

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More About Mischling by Affinity Konar
"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.

From our buyer, Margaret Terwey: "Mischling is a miraculous and moving story based on the Auschwitz experiments of Josef Mengele, nicknamed "Angel of Death". Mengele performed horrific experiments on 3000 twins. Through the narratives of two sisters, each coping differently, you'll experience one of the darkest moments in history, but you'll be left with a sense of soaring spirit."

  • ISBN-13: 9780316308106
  • ISBN-10: 0316308102
  • Publisher: Lee Boudreaux Books
  • Publish Date: September 2016
  • Page Count: 352
  • Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.25 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Historical - General
Books > Fiction > War & Military

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2016-06-06
  • Reviewer: Staff

Without sentimentality, Konar’s gripping novel explores the world of the children who were the subjects of Nazi doctor Josef Mengele’s horrifying experiments at Auschwitz. Stasha and Pearl, 12-year-old Jewish sisters from Poland, are placed in Mengele’s “zoo” because they are twins, rather than being sent to the gas chambers. Stasha is impulsive, a little melancholy, and given to storytelling; Pearl is more restrained and observant, and less dependent on her sister. Mengele selects one of the sisters to torture and uses the other as a control in his experiment. The two narrate alternating chapters of their story, which begins when they are sent to the camp in the autumn of 1944. The latter part takes the novel into the chaotic months after Auschwitz was abandoned, when some of the inmates were set on a death march and others were liberated by the Allies. Konar neatly avoids making Mengele the center of attention, instead focusing on the girls and the people they meet in the zoo, including brash, mouthy Bruna; conflicted Dr. Miri, a Jewish physician conscripted to work for “Uncle Doctor” Mengele; and messenger boy Peter, whose affection for Pearl threatens the closeness of the twins. 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. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Sept.)

BookPage Reviews

The unbreakable bond of twins

The depth of the atrocities committed against the Jewish people during and after World War II seems bottomless, never to be fully probed. In Mischling, the culmination of years of research, author Affinity Konar weaves an intensely emotional tale of sisters caught in the horrific experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele.

It’s 1944. Pearl and Stasha Zagorski, yellow-haired, brown-eyed, 12-year-old twins, are ushered through Auschwitz’s forbidding gates with their mother and grandfather. Because they are twins, the girls are singled out and sent to Mengele’s Zoo, along with other multiples and those with genetic mutations. There, Mengele both gives and takes life, affording his special subjects “privileges” such as extra food while injecting them and extracting from them at will. From caging his subjects and performing forced hysterectomies and abortions, to separating twins to study the effects of deprivation on the previously inseparable, the cruelty of the so-called “Angel of Death” is boundless. After months of sleeping next to Stasha in their narrow bunk, Pearl disappears from a concert Mengele arranges. 

Told in alternating chapters, Mischling portrays each girl’s unique expression of her experience. Stasha is the more impulsive and imaginative of the two, while Pearl’s thoughtful approach is more rational and measured. 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, namely in Dr. Miri, a Jewish doctor who tries to ease the children’s suffering.

Though Konar’s work is fiction, her research into historical figures and accounts helped form the key characters and episodes within it. Her writing bears a pointed edge, but also has a striking cadence that is often beautiful and poetic. Despite their deplorable circumstances, the twins preserve a 12-year-old’s mix of naïveté and developing awareness. The games, memories and fantasies they share propel Pearl and Stasha onward, to find each other and embrace the world again.


This article was originally published in the September 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews