Rosner's exquisite, heart-rending debut novel is proof that there's always going to be room for another story about World War II....This is an absolutely beautiful and necessary novel, full of heartbreak but also hope, about the bond between mother and daughter, and the sacrifices made for love. --The New York Times
In Poland, as World War II rages, a mother hides with her young daughter, a musical prodigy whose slightest sound may cost them their lives.
As Nazi soldiers round up the Jews in their town, Roza and her 5-year-old daughter, Shira, flee, seeking shelter in a neighbor's barn. Hidden in the hayloft day and night, Shira struggles to stay still and quiet, as music pulses through her and the farmyard outside beckons. To soothe her daughter and pass the time, Roza tells her a story about a girl in an enchanted garden:
The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings. He sings whatever the girl composes in her head: high-pitched trills of piccolo; low-throated growls of contrabassoon. Music helps the flowers bloom.
In this make-believe world, Roza can shield Shira from the horrors that surround them. But the day comes when their haven is no longer safe, and Roza must make an impossible choice: whether to keep Shira by her side or give her the chance to survive apart.
Inspired by the true stories of Jewish children hidden during World War II, Jennifer Rosner's debut is a breathtaking novel about the unbreakable bond between a mother and a daughter. Beautiful and riveting, The Yellow Bird Sings is a testament to the triumph of hope--a whispered story, a bird's song--in even the darkest of times.
- ISBN-13: 9781250179760
- ISBN-10: 1250179769
- Publisher: Flatiron Books
- Publish Date: March 2020
The Yellow Bird Sings
“The world ceased to make sense,” writes Jennifer Rosner in her debut novel, The Yellow Bird Sings. Nothing about Poland in 1941 follows any familiar pattern for Róza and her young daughter, Shira, as they flee their hometown after Nazis invade.
Rosner’s novel takes us to the barn where Henryk and Krystyna, who fear for their own family’s safety if caught harboring Jews, allow the mother and daughter to hide. Róza’s fears compound with each interminable day of their confinement, especially as it grows harder for curious, clever Shira not to indulge her love of music. Róza has told Shira little about why they had to leave, why they have to hide and be quiet, and Shira brims with questions and yearns to be outside. To occupy and distract her daughter, Róza invents a tale of a girl in a hidden flower garden with a virtuoso yellow bird who can sing songs—unless the giants are nearby. Music lifts them as Róza teaches Shira the pieces she and her violinist husband loved, and unexpectedly her daughter’s brilliant proficiency reveals itself. The melodies inside Shira burn to be expressed, and it pains Róza to stifle her daughter’s gift to keep them safe.
In Shira and Róza, Rosner captures two souls in turmoil, chronicling their grief as well as their strength of will to overcome, their longings and even surprising triumphs. Through the language of music and memory, Rosner thoughtfully composes a life for Róza and Shira that is safe and beautiful until it is shattered.
The Yellow Bird Sings keeps your heart in your throat, your eyes pricked with tears. Rosner excels at illustrating the nostalgic pull of a certain melody, a scrap of blanket, the smell of a loved one, a recipe with eggs. When their shelter is threatened, Róza and Shira must fly, as birds do, with only the bond of their hearts to connect them.
The little light that shines in this terrible darkness—the precious little hope that anchors Róza’s and Shira’s souls—is very bright.