Thursday, February 9, 2017

Excerpt and Giveaway: The Orphan's Tale

We're pleased to share an excerpt from Pam Jenoff's latest novel, The Orphan's Tale (publishing February 21st from Mira). Melissa A thought it was phenomenal and says as much in her review. Thanks to TLC Book Tours, we have one copy to give away! Visit all the stops on their excerpt and review tours.

A powerful novel of friendship set in a traveling circus during World War II, The Orphan’s Tale introduces two extraordinary women and their harrowing stories of sacrifice and survival.

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.


Where had these babies come from? They must have just arrived, for surely they could not last long in the icy temperatures.

I have seen the trains going east for months, people where the cattle and sacks of grain should have been. Despite the awfulness of the transport, I had told myself they were going somewhere like a camp or a village, just being kept in one place. The notion was fuzzy in my mind, but I imagined somewhere maybe with cabins or tents like the seaside campsite south of our village in Holland for those who couldn’t afford a real holiday or preferred something more rustic. Resettlement. In these dead and dying babies, though, I see the wholeness of the lie.

I glance over my shoulder. The trains of people are always guarded. But here there is no one—because there is simply no chance of the infants getting away.

Closest to me lies a baby with gray skin, its lips blue. I try to brush the thin layer of frost from its eyelashes but the child is already stiff and gone. I yank my hand back, scanning the others. Most of the infants are naked or just wrapped in a blanket or cloth, stripped of anything that would have protected them from the harsh cold. But in the center of the car, two perfect pale pink booties stick stiffly up in the air, attached to a baby who is otherwise naked. Someone had cared enough to knit those, stitch by stitch. A sob escapes through my lips.

A head peeks out among the others. Straw and feces cover its heart-shaped face. The child does not look pained or distressed, but wears a puzzled expression, as if to say “Now what am I doing here?” There is something familiar about it: coal-dark eyes, piercing through me, just as they had the day I had given birth. My heart swells.

The baby’s face crumples suddenly and it squalls. My hands shoot out, and I strain to reach it over the others before anyone else hears. My grasp falls short of the infant, who wails louder. I try to climb into the car, but the children are packed so tightly, I can’t manage for fear of stepping on one. Desperately, I strain my arms once more, just reaching. I pick up the crying child, needing to silence it. Its skin is icy as I pluck it from the car, naked save for a soiled cloth diaper.

The baby in my arms now, only the second I’d ever held, seems to calm in the crook of my elbow. Could this possibly be my child, brought back to me by fate or chance? The child’s eyes close and its head bows forward. Whether it is sleeping or dying, I cannot say. Clutching it, I start away from the train. Then I turn back: if any of those other children are still alive, I am their only chance. I should take more.

But the baby I am holding cries again, the shrill sound cutting through the silence. I cover its mouth and run back into the station.

I walk toward the closet where I sleep. Stopping at the door, I look around desperately. I have nothing. Instead I walk into the women’s toilet, the usually dank smell hardly noticeable after the boxcar. At the sink, I wipe the filth from the infant’s face with one of the rags I use for cleaning. The baby is warmer now, but two of its toes are blue and I wonder if it might lose them. Where did it come from?

I open the filthy diaper. The child is a boy like my own had been. Closer now I can see that his tiny penis looks different from the German’s, or that of the boy at school who had shown me his when I was seven. Circumcised. Steffi had told me the word once, explaining what they had done to her little brother. The child is Jewish. Not mine.

I step back as the reality I had known all along sinks in: I cannot keep a Jewish baby, or a baby at all, by myself and cleaning the station twelve hours a day. What had I been thinking?

The baby begins to roll sideways from the ledge by the sink where I had left him. I leap forward, catching him before he falls to the hard tile floor. I am unfamiliar with infants and I hold him at arm’s length now, like a dangerous animal. But he moves closer, nuzzling against my neck. I clumsily make a diaper out of the other rag, then carry the child from the toilet and out of the station, heading back toward the railcar. I have to put him back on the train, as if none of this ever happened.

At the edge of the platform, I freeze. One of the guards is now walking along the tracks, blocking my way back to the train. I search desperately in all directions. Close to the side of the station sits a milk delivery truck, the rear stacked high with large cans. Impulsively I start toward it. I slide the baby into one of the empty jugs, trying not to think about how icy the metal must be against his bare skin. He does not make a sound but just stares at me helplessly.

I duck behind a bench as the truck door slams. In a second, it will leave, taking the infant with it.
And no one will know what I have done.

Pam Jenoff is the author of several novels, including the international bestseller The Kommandant’s Girl, which also earned her a Quill Award nomination. Pam lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school. Visit Pam at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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Giveaway ends February 12th at midnight EST.


Kristi said...

The Orphan's Tale sounds right up my alley! Just a few paragraphs are listed here but it has already made me want to read more. Thanks!

Janine said...

I agree with the above comment. From the short amount I just read, I feel the need to read this book. As for the question, I have only been to the circus once when my husband and I first started dating (he was shocked to hear I had never been before). It was just ok to me. Not really exciting. Maybe I was just too old. But what I liked the most was watching how the children around us reacted to it. I loved seeing the joy on their faces.

Aire para respirar said...

I barely remember my visits as a child, but I do remember going with my cousins and seeing their faces was incredible

TinaB said...

The trapeze acts

Karen B said...

I loved all the excitement, watching the crowds, the funny clowns.

djnbjnon said...

Sounds like a great book. I have never been to the circus.

traveler said...

The circus was a place which I never experienced.

Melanie Backus said...

I always enjoyed watching the elephants. As big as they were, their grace and strength were captivating.

rubynreba said...

I liked the tightrope walkers.

Anonymous said...

I like the elephants at the circus. The book sounds like a fun read. Thanks for the chance.
vera wilson said

snoopysnop1 at yahoo dot com

Tatum Rangel said...

I've never been to a circus; however, I would like to see acrobats.

Robin Whitaker said...

I sadly have never been to a circus. I am very excited to read this book. Blessings <3

Unknown said...

I can't wait to read this!

Bonnie K. said...

I haven't been to a circus in ages. I was a kid when I went. My favorite is the trapeze acts.

Elizabeth G. said...

I have always loved the circus. I know that there are issues with the animals. As a child, you just know the fun and mystery. My mother was a single parent. Her friends gave us tickets to see the circus in 1976. It was a tribute to the USA. I will never forget it. I was 10 years old. I was so excited to finally take my daughter to her first circus. It just happened to be on my 35th birthday!

Grandma Cootie said...

I don't like to see animals doing tricks, but what did impress me about the circus was the close sense of family of all the members.

SusanLovesBooks said...

Not the clowns.......they have always freaked me out! The first time I went to the circus I was 18 the first time I went to the circus......

diannekc said...

I liked the excitement of the circus. It was fun to see the different acts and watching what was going on in the other rings.
Book sounds amazing, would like to read.

Mary Preston said...

A must read for me.

The circus always seems out of step with reality to me.

Sandy T. said...

I've always loved the horses at the circus as well as the elephants. Thanks for the chance to win!

Kelly M said...

The trapeze artists.

bn100 said...


Debbie E said...

The circus was a very exciting to me when I was younger! Loved the trapeze artists and the horse back riders

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

Thanks for featuring this excerpt for the tour!

Elizabeth said...

The Orphan's Tale was marvelous.

Love all of Ms. Jenoff's books.

ENJOY your reading week.

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