A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron

By Ekta R. Garg

June 24, 2015

Rated: Bypass it

A young woman and her new husband face a daunting legal battle. At another point in time an artist, at her parents’ urging, leaves her family in World War II Prague to save her own life. Both women must deal with the biggest challenges of their lives if they want to move ahead. Historical author Kristy Cambron presents readers with a sequel to her debut novel in the dismal plot of A Sparrow in Terezin.

After selling her art gallery in New York and moving to San Francisco to be with the love of her life, Sera prepares to open a new gallery in the Golden Gate City. She and William have planned a grand wedding, but the threat of jail time for William due to major business issues forces them to move up the wedding. Just as they say “I do,” the police come and lead William away in handcuffs. Sera must now deal with his family and all the stresses that come with William’s defense.

In Prague in 1939 Kaja Makovsky gets on a train to escape the Nazis who have begun marching in droves into the city. Kaja doesn’t want to go; how, she asks her parents, can she leave them behind? So what if she’s half Jewish? Her father’s work as a prestigious physician should vouch for them. They almost force her onto the train, however, and Kaja must ignore her heartache at leaving them behind and force herself to face the future.

That future comes in a new life in London after a brief stop in Palestine. She joins a newspaper staff and meets Liam Marshall on her first day. They develop a friendship, and Kaja believes she is safe from the war…until the Germans begin bombing the city. After finding out about the concentration camps and then surviving one of the bombings, Kaja realizes she must go back to Prague. She needs to find her parents and help them leave Central Europe before they get shipped to Auschwitz themselves. When Kaja reaches Prague, however, she realizes the situation has spiraled out of control.

Billed as a sequel to author Kristy Cambron’s first book, A Sparrow in Terezin doesn’t support the first book as a sequel should. While Cambron took great care the first time presenting readers with a compelling storyline about art created in the concentration camps, she rushes everything in this book. Her parallel storylines won’t satisfy readers this time as they did in the previous book.

Sera and William’s track feels stalled for most of the novel. Cambron promises a major reveal regarding the young couple, seemingly to compensate for the fact that she spends most of the book on Kaja’s portion. When that reveal comes, however, readers might feel like they just blinked and have to reread it. Cambron relies on a cliché medical condition to rouse some emotion, but even that doesn’t really do the trick.

Once again, as with the first book, the WWII section here feels much more developed. I would almost wager that Cambron could write novels just about the Holocaust and find herself with tighter plots. Her passion for her subject really shines here, although surprisingly Cambron lets her own series concept down.

Cambron talks in the first book about wanting to share with readers the fact that concentration camp prisoners created various forms of art as a means of escape from the horror of their condition. She fulfills the requirement of an art form in A Sparrow in Terezin, but it’s with the most cursory of provisions and that ultimately becomes the book’s greatest failing.

Also, Cambron’s dialogue doesn’t feel authentic, and her narrative leans too far heavily in the direction of purple prose. Her strength lies most clearly in research, which in this book doesn’t get a chance to shine.

Despite my great reluctance to do so, I have to rate A Sparrow in Terezin as Bypass it.