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Reviewed by Marta Tandori for Readers' Favorite
The strength of the human spirit weaves a magical spell in The Puppet Maker’s Daughter, a mesmerizing work of historical fiction by Karla M. Jay. It’s March of 1944 and like most Hungarian Jews, nineteen-year-old Marika Tausig and her family don’t seem overly concerned that the Germans have officially arrived in Budapest. Although they’ve been stripped of many of their rights, they still believe that their proud country won’t bow to the force of the German army. And yet Budapest quickly becomes terrorized by the vicious Germans and the fanatical Arrow Cross Party as they begin their steady annihilation of the Jews from Budapest. Marika and her family fear for their lives as Christians begin turning against Jews, and neighbors against neighbors. Families don’t know who they can trust anymore. Marika fears for her family’s safety and will do everything she can to keep them safe – even if it means joining the Resistance and putting her own life in peril.
There have been many books written about the annihilation of the Jews during the Second World War. All are filled with disturbing images and descriptions of the horrors inflicted by man on his fellow man in the name of hate and ethnic cleansing. While The Puppet Maker’s Daughter is also filled with vivid descriptions of death, destruction, despair and suffering on a large scale, Jay does it in such a way that reading about it is bearable. This is due in part to her main protagonist, Marika Tausig, a brave young woman who only wants to help others and keep her family safe. She places herself in constant danger as she tirelessly helps orphans and forges documents. Her loyalty to her fiancé, Gellert, and those she loves is admirable – even when she realizes that she can’t help everyone. She’s truly a character of substance, making her an irresistible part of the story.
The Puppet Maker’s Daughter also has little clever twists and turns that add a sense of intrigue to an otherwise difficult read, due to its subject matter. From a father with a propensity for telling riddles and making puppets with secrets to strangers whose bravery in helping others risks putting their own lives in jeopardy; all help in tempering the scenes of brutality and abject horror. To read Karla M. Jay’s story is inevitable if you’re a lover of wartime sagas but to put it down is nigh near impossible. Every page demands to be read, every word felt. In all its ugliness, there is beauty and, at the end of the day, The Puppet Maker’s Daughter will restore your faith in the human spirit.