“Karolina’s Twins” by Ronald H. Balson is a beautifully told story about an older woman trying to fulfill a promise she made to her best friend during the years they were in a Nazi camp during World War II.
Lena is currently a well-to-do woman living in Chicago. She has, in her late eighties, decided that she needs to fulfill the promise she made to her friend Karolina to take care of Karolina’s twin babies. She asks husband-and-wife team Liam Taggart and Catherine Lockhart (investigator and attorney respectively) to help her find them. In order for the couple to investigate, she has to tell them her story, her history.
The novel alternates between Catherine defending Lena from the lawsuit instigated by Lena’s only son, claiming that his mother is suffering from dementia because she looks for twin babies who don’t exist. He believes that she made them up and is spending inordinate amounts of money to find something that isn’t there.
The story and Balson’s writing really grab the reader. While this reviewer was not going to read the whole book, once begun, the pages kept turning until 1:00 am when the last page was finished. It is a book that is difficult to put down — it’s many things: historical fiction, a mystery, a love story, and a story of survival.
In fact, the only complaint that a reader might have is that the cover image has nothing to do with the story. Nothing at all. There are two girls running by a river, and one appears to be in a miniskirt, the other in a knee-length dress. There is nothing historical about it, and nothing that ties it to present-day Chicago.
Also quite interesting is the fact that much of the story is based on actual events. Balson says that he met a woman who shared her history with him, and with her permission, he used much of it in this book.
Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s edition received by St. Martin’s Press, the publisher, for review purposes.