Affinity Konar's novel Mischling is set largely in Auschwitz, mainly in Josef Mengele's "Zoo," where the infamous Nazi doctor performed grotesque experiments on "undesirable" twins and others. Mischling commits to a child's-eye perspective on the horrors, and it's to Konar's credit that the novel manages to be as much about the perils of sisterhood as it is about the tragedy of genocide.

Konar's (The Illustrated Version of Things) main characters are identical twins Pearl and Stasha, children forced to reckon with their emerging adolescence under the most difficult circumstances imaginable. They are selected by Mengele to live and suffer in his Zoo, undergoing painful medical procedures that unnaturally differentiate them--physically and mentally--in ways that threaten their sibling bond. Mischling is a German term meaning "mixed-blood"--the word used by the Nazis to describe people with a mix of Jewish and "Aryan" blood or, as Pearl and Stasha's father puts it: "absurd, hateful tests that tried to divide our people down to the last blood drop and marriage and place of worship."

A story of survival, it also follows the two girls' heroic, almost spiritual quest not to grow apart. Konar doesn't attempt to unspool Mengele's fathomless psyche, and by the end of the novel, his bizarre ability to shift seamlessly from playing with children to torturing them with absurd experiments remains as inexplicable and terrifying as ever.

Mischling is never solely defined by the horrors of its setting. Moments of beauty emerge unexpectedly and stick with the reader long after the book is over. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

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