There are stories within this story. A boy who loses his distance vision, a man who grew up in New York with a Nazi sympathizer, a Jewish man who barely escaped Nazi Germany with his life, a young woman sneaked to New York from a refugee camp in western France. The boy's friends have fathers or brothers in the war. There are two mothers who are physically present but spiritually absent. Two boys construct elaborate stories around their departed loved ones. A man who can fix anything cannot fix his beloved's weak heart. Multiple love stories start with a wild, entrancing young woman with a faulty bicycle meeting a young man who can fix her bike.
Most enchantingly, the characters in this book have powers. Jack, the 12-year-old, can hear what people really mean, no matter what they say. His father can read people. Jakob, the Jewish-German-American, can make himself effectively invisible, attracting no attention to himself.
The plot is the stuff of dreams. Full of spies and secrets, these New Yorkers are far from the battlefield action, but thoughts of the war fill their minds. Jakob and Jack hatch a plan to rescue children from the French refugee camp, a plan that would never work, a plan that seems ludicrous, but they plan it and carry it out nonetheless. The story is very much of its place and time, but also very much of hope and dreams and love. It's a wonderful read.
I got a free copy of this from Panguin's First to Read program.