There’s probably more than one reason that I enjoy reading fiction written for children, but one of those reasons is that even the best of children’s fiction is somewhat simple and straightforward. Children, and adults like me, want a story, a beginning-to-end, satisfying, well-written story that gives us something to think about in the process. Someone Named Eva was such a story.
The novel is appropriate for any child who’s mature enough to deal emotionally with the essential plotline: a Czech child is stolen from her home and sent to a school for training young Aryan Nazis to serve the Fatherland. Milada qualifies for this “honor” because she is blonde, blue-eyed, and her nose is the right length. Before she leaves, her grandmother tells her: “Remember who you are, Milada. Remember where you are from. Always.”
Easier said than done. Milada, whose named is changed to the German Eva, hears so many lies, repeated so often and so convincingly that she begins to lose her grip on truth and her sense of her own identity. Her German teachers tell her that her parents died in an air raid, and even though she knows that they were arrested by the Germans themselves and that she was taken away from them, Eva begins to doubt her own memories. Could such “brainwashing” really happen? Of course, it could; Someone Named Eva is based on a true story of a Czech village burned to the ground for supposed collaboration with the the Allies and Aryan-looking children given in adoption to German families during World War II. Many of those children did forget their own native language and their family and cultural heritage.
I was reminded of Hitler’s famous dictum (not actually formulated by Hitler, but attributed to him anyway): “people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.” I thought, too, of Satan, and how his colossal lies are repeated over and over again throughout our society and of how we eventually begin to doubt the truth in favor of the oft-repeated lie:
Money will make you happy. Lots of money and stuff will make you supremely happy.
People and relationships can wait. Pursue the urgent rather than the eternal.
God can be mocked. You will not really reap what you sow.
You are not loved. God cannot be trusted. Live for the moment because that’s all you’ve got.
We believe the lies, act upon them, and lose our own souls in the process.
I’ve gone a bit far afield from the book Someone Named Eva, but a book that can make me think about such important issues is only simple in the sense that it is honest and direct. Oh, the power of a simple story.
Someone Named Eva was nominated for the Cybil Award for Middle Grade Fiction. Read more about author Joan M. Wolf here.
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