Lost In America




San Francisco Chronicle Review

Young war refugee makes a new life in New York
Reviewed by Susan Faust/San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, May 29, 2005

Lost In America, By Marilyn Sachs

World War II came to an end in Europe 60 years ago this month. The Nazis surrendered, the killing stopped, but the effects of madness persisted way beyond V-E Day, as we see in "Lost In America'' by San Francisco author Marilyn Sachs.

Sachs continues the story of young Nicole Nieman, begun in "A Pocket Full of Seeds." A French Jew, Nicole is left to fend for herself after the Germans round up her mother, father and sister.

Sachs writes with admiration and affection and particular authenticity. That's because the fictional Nicole is modeled after her real-life friend of more than 30 years, Fanny Krieger, also of San Francisco. Covering the years 1943 to 1948, this long-awaited sequel recaps past events, follows the teenage Nicole as she survives the war, learns the fate of her family and moves to America to begin anew.

Sachs depicts Nicole's American cousins candidly and not glowingly. Could they really have been so heartless? Sachs shows how tough it is for a war- weary girl from Aix-les-Bains to adjust to life in the Bronx. Could America really have been so innocent?

Sachs captures the emotional wounds of wartime experience along with the boundless trajectory of postwar optimism. It is fun to see how, in the details of everyday life, Nicole sets out to be a real American girl. She acquires new skills (English and typing), new clothes (pointy bras, a twinset and nylon stockings) and new aspirations (dating non-nerds and getting her own place).

The title alludes to a key theme: what it means to be without a home and what it takes to make a new one. Nicole's efforts to accomplish that reflect another theme: the resilience of the human spirit. Thus, Sachs adds to Holocaust literature a novel that has a sad beginning but ends on a hopeful note.

Susan Faust is a librarian at San Francisco's Katherine Delmar Burke School.

Review from BOOKS INC.

Lost in America, Marilyn Sachs

Seventeen-year-old Nicole wants nothing more than to be a “real American girl,” but the memories of her family, taken by the Nazis and killed at Auschwitz, continue to haunt her as she struggles to make a new life for herself in a strange land.

Bay Area author, Marilyn Sachs, tells the story of a determined, resourceful girl, based on the life of her own real-life friend. Lost in America is a book you will long remember.


Set just after World War II, Lost In America is the story of a seventeen-year-old girl who has come to America from France. She likes ordinary pleasures such as banana splits, eating chocolate, her warm red coat, and a boyfriend she met on a double date. But her aunt pressures her to take up smoking to become a "real American girl", and making a new life for herself in a strange land offers greater challenges every turn., and memories of losing her family to the murderous campaign of the Nazis haunt her. A moving story about coming of age from Marilyn Sachs, author of more than thirty-five award-winning books and coeditor of the acclaimed "The Big Book for Peace".

Reviews from Amazon.com

Editorial Reviews
From School Library Journal

Grade 5 Up–This sequel to A Pocket Full of Seeds (Penguin, 1994) begins with the last night the 13-year-old French protagonist sees her family alive. Coming home after a sleepover, Nicole Nieman finds her apartment ransacked and discovers that the Gestapo has seized her parents and little sister. Terrified and alone, she is forced to seek out an estranged aunt who agrees to keep her. After the occupation ends in 1944, Nicole is uncomfortable living with her aunt and chooses to board at school, where she is reunited with Rosette, another Jewish girl. Though Rosette's father tells horror stories of the camps, Nicole remains optimistic. Nevertheless, she gets the tragic news that her family did not survive Auschwitz. Devastated, she decides to move to America and live with cousins in the Bronx. Her relatives never make her feel welcome, and Nicole, who is now 17, must get a job and make a future for herself. Most of the book deals with Nicole's adjustment to life in the United States, and the first-person narrative does a good job of expressing her feelings of alienation, her loneliness, and her unwavering determination to remain true to herself and to the memory of her beloved family. Like Livia Bitton-Jackson's memoir, Hello, America (S & S, 2005), this is a moving coming-of-age story of a courageous girl.–Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 5-8. Whether dealing with the harrowing story of a Holocaust survivor or with the daily details of trying to be a real American girl, Sachs' story, based on the real-life experience of a Jewish teenager, unfolds quietly. In 1943 Nicole, 14, is at a friend's when the Gestapo arrests her family in her small French town. After the war she waits for their return, until, in an absolutely unforgettable scene, a weeping survivor tells Nicole that her parents and baby sister died in Auschwitz. At 17, Nicole emigrates to join relatives in the Bronx--not that they really want her--and she struggles to find work, friends, and a home of her own. The history is authentic; in fact, there may be too much about how Nicole shops, talks, and dates. It's the big picture that leaves the deepest impression, revealing that many Americans felt untouched by the war and didn't want to know about it. Without rhetoric, this novel ensures that readers learn the real history.

Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

  The story began with A Pocket Full of Seeds

A Pocket Full of Seeds


Nicole Nieman, a French Jew, during the second World War, must learn to cope after her parents and sister are captured by the Nazis, and sent to a concentration camp. A harrowing account of life for a child in hiding during the Holocaust.

Home | About Me | Books In Print | Out-of-Print | Links | About You | email Me | Site Designer