Sarah’s Key tells the story of two people, a young girl and a middle-aged woman, and the remote connection between their lives in France. In the beginning of the novel, the chapters alternate between the two separate lives of Sarah and Julia.
In 1942, ten-year-old Sarah is awakened by pounding at her family’s apartment door. It is the French police; Sarah believes they are looking for her father, who has been hiding in the basement. But the police have actually arrived to take Sarah’s entire family. Her mother tells Sarah to wake her younger brother, Michel, so they can gather their belongings. To protect him, Sarah decides to hide Michel in their secret cupboard in the bedroom. Sarah believes they will be home soon to rescue Michel, so she locks him inside and hides the key in her pocket.
As they follow the police, Sarah’s distraught mother screams her husband’s name until he comes out of hiding to join them. The family is brought to a large garage where there are many other families. Sarah believes this is a temporary misunderstanding. When Sarah’s father begins to ask details about Michel she is disturbed by his concern. Sarah sees that her father is not telling her everything and she demands some answers. When he fails to respond, she realizes that she has placed Michel in grave danger.
The families are then loaded onto buses and taken away from the city. They are brought to a stadium filled with people. As she notes the yellow stars on each jacket, Sarah finally realizes that they have all been brought there simply because they are Jewish.
The conditions in the arena are inhumane. Days later, the Jews are loaded onto trains that will take them to a facility in the country. There, the men are separated from the women, and then the women are cruelly taken from their children. Sarah meets Rachel, a girl her age who has a plan to escape. Desperate to get back to Michel, Sarah agrees to go with her. They barely manage to escape with the help of a guard who recognizes Sarah from their neighborhood.
The girls walk for days and finally come across a house where Jules and Genevieve Dufaure kindly take them in. Rachel falls sick and dies from dysentery. Sarah is haunted by thoughts of Michel, and when she feels stronger, she tells the couple that she is leaving to go back to Paris to find out what happened to him. The couple agrees to help her. Together, they manage to get by the French police and German guards and make it to Sarah’s family apartment in Paris.
When they arrive, they find a new family living in the apartment. Sarah is intent on getting straight to the cupboard, which is now hidden in a young boy’s bedroom. She stops when she gets close and smells the unmistakable odor of death. She collapses on the floor. The couple explains the situation, and the father of the new family quickly opens the cupboard and pulls out the decayed body of Michel. Sarah releases a mournful wail for herself, her mother, and...
(The entire section is 1225 words.)
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Chapters 1-2 Summary
Paris, July 1942
Since her bedroom is closest to the door, the girl is the first to hear the loud knocking. She is groggy with sleep and thinks at first it is her father who has come up from his hiding place in the cellar and is impatiently knocking because he has forgotten his keys. However, when she hears the loud, “brutal” voices, she knows the knocking has nothing to do with him. It is the police, and they are demanding that someone open the door. Her little brother in the bed next to her stirs a bit when the knocking resumes, and she looks outside to see that it is still dark. She is afraid.
She was not supposed to know about the "trouble," but she had crept downstairs to the living room late at night and listened to her parents talking in hushed voices when they thought she was asleep. They were speaking their native language, which she understood but could not speak as fluently as they. Her father had said times would get difficult and they would all have to be brave and extremely careful. He whispered “strange, unknown” words, such as “camps” and “roundup” and “early morning arrests.” These words held no meaning for the girl. Her father said it was only the men who were in danger, so every night he would hide in the cellar.
In the morning, he had explained to his daughter that he would be sleeping downstairs until “things got safe.” She is unclear what “things” he is talking about or what, exactly, “safe” means. She wanted to ask about the other strange words, but then she would have had to admit she had been eavesdropping so she was left wondering.
The police outside the door are still hollering and knocking. The girl goes softly to her mother’s room and wakes her. As she tells her about the police banging on the door, the girl thinks her mother looks older than her thirty years. Her brother is sleeping through all of it. The girl asks if they have come for Papa, if they will take him away, but her mother does not answer her as she goes to the door and timidly asks what the men want. They shout her name and demand that she open the door immediately. Her mother’s face is drained of color and the girl has never seen her so afraid.
(The entire section is 922 words.)
Chapters 3-4 Summary
The girl is stunned to see her mother sobbing, quietly at first and then growing louder. In her ten years, she has never seen her mother cry. She watches the tears fall down her mother’s face and wants to tell her to stop, that she is ashamed of her for crying in front of these strangers. The men, however, are not paying any attention to the spectacle and only want her to hurry.
Though she asks where they are being taken and reminds the officers that her daughter is French and was born in Paris, the men remain silent. After spending a few minutes in her room, the mother turns to her daughter and tells her to wake her brother, get dressed, and put some clothes in a bag. The four-year-old is frightened into immobility when he peeks out of his room and sees the men. Despite her sister’s cajoling, he refuses to move. She begins to get dressed as he watches her, and then he whispers that he is going to their “secret place.”
She reaches for him, insisting that he must come with them, but he wriggles free and slips into the hiding place in which they often play hide and seek. It is a cupboard hidden in the wall of their bedroom, and they lock themselves in regularly. Their parents are aware of their children’s hiding spot, but they play along and pretend not to be able to find them. Inside their little “house,” the girl often reads books to her brother. Now she looks in at him in the darkness of the cupboard. He is huddled there with his teddy bear clasped tightly to his chest, so he is not afraid. The girl wonders if she should let him stay.
The men would never be able to find his hiding place, and she can come back to get him as soon as she and her mother are allowed to return to their home. If her father comes up from his hiding place in the cellar, he will know where to look for his son. She asks the young boy if he is afraid; he tells her he is not afraid and she should...
(The entire section is 667 words.)
Chapters 5-6 Summary
The man with the beige raincoat checks his list and says there is a boy missing. When he says the boy’s name, his mother looks quickly at her daughter. She gives her mother a sign to stay silent, which she does. The daughter steps forward and speaks in flawless French, the French of a native, telling the men her brother left at the beginning of the month to spend time at his friend’s home in the country. The man in the raincoat looks doubtful and tells his associate to do a quick search.
As the girl predicted, he is not able to find any hint of the hidden cupboard. While the men’s backs are turned, the girl turns to her mother and explains through gestures what she has done. The only question her mother has is how she will get the key to her father. As they leave the apartment, the man in the raincoat asks for the keys to the apartment. The girl is still wondering how she can leave the key to the cupboard for Papa.
The female concierge behind the counter is here this morning, something unusual for her, and she appears to be gloating. She avoids looking at the women, only has eyes for the men. The girl wonders why this is so because her mother has always treated the woman well. She has even watched her fretful baby, singing songs to her in her native language so she would sleep. As the policeman gives the concierge the keys to the apartment, he asks if she knows where the brother and father are. She shrugs and tells them she has not seen the husband or brother much lately, suggesting they may have gone into hiding and the men should check the cellar.
The men do not have time and the woman’s baby begins crying. Before the men leave, the concierge tells the men about several other families who live in the building next door. As she pronounces their names, her face wrinkles with distaste as if she were saying a dirty word.
(The entire section is 659 words.)
Chapters 7-8 Summary
Outside the building, a neighbor is leaning out the window in his pajamas. He is a music teacher and he often played French children’s songs for the girl and her brother as well as songs from her parents’ country. These songs would always get her parents dancing until they were dizzy. He hollers out the window now, asking where the men are taking the mother and daughter. When there is no answer, he tells them this is not fair, that they are good and honest people.
As he yells, other windows open and faces begin peering out from behind closed curtains. The girl notices that though they all watch, no one moves or speaks on their behalf. The mother stops and begins sobbing. The...
(The entire section is 505 words.)
Chapters 9-10 Summary
The girl and her parents are taken to a large garage where men are working on engines and stare at them silently. In one corner of the garage is a large group of people, mostly women and children, standing silently with an assortment of bags and baskets. Soon two policemen appear and begin calling out names. The girl’s father raises his hand when their family name is called.
The girl looks around and sees a classmate from school. She gives him an encouraging look but he stares at her like she is “crazy.” She is embarrassed and wonders if she is right to be hopeful. When her father bends down close to her and asks where her brother is, she shows him the key and explains that...
(The entire section is 903 words.)
Chapters 11-12 Summary
The day is long and nearly unbearable for the little girl and everyone else in the arena. It is horribly hot and there is nothing to eat or drink. The doors in and out are locked and guarded by threatening armed policemen. There are too few bathrooms in the building, and women are humiliated by having to urinate on the floor in such a public place and in such a stench. The girl’s father takes her to the bathroom and they come back to her mother who is not responding to anything.
The girl sees Leon, her classmate, and he is wandering through the crowd and looking at the big doors. His yellow star has been ripped off his shirt, and he tells the girl that his parents want him to...
(The entire section is 687 words.)
Chapters 13-14 Summary
The only way the girl can try to shut out the horrors around her is to tuck her head between her knees and cover her ears. She tries to remember some of her happiest moments and think about her friends, like Armelle. She lives just down the road from the girl, but Armelle and her family left at the beginning of vacations and went somewhere south. Armelle had never been afraid, even when the sirens went off during school and they had to go to the cellar. Their teacher would read to them, but Armelle could see the teacher’s hand shaking and would make fun of her fear. The red-headed girl was never afraid, and the girl wished her friend were here to hold her hand right now.
(The entire section is 605 words.)
Chapters 15-16 Summary
The girl witnesses a woman giving birth prematurely to a stillborn baby. She sees her father, after he takes the key to the cupboard from her, try to convince one of the stone-faced policemen to let him leave to get his son. He promises to come back, but of course the officer refuses his request and orders him to get out of the way. He comes back to them crying. She puts the key back in her pocket and wonders how long her brother can survive. Though she is sure the boy is frightened and feeling as if he has been deserted, she is confident it is better than being here in “this hell, the stink, the heat, the dust, the people screaming, the people dying.”
She looks around her....
(The entire section is 963 words.)
Chapters 17-18 Summary
The girl cannot remember how long they have been in this horrible place, but she does remember all that she has seen: suicide, fever, heart attacks, insanity, and death. All she can think about is her brother. One morning a voice over the loudspeaker announces they are to gather near the entrance. Everyone looks old and defeated, even the children. She hopes this means they will be going home and wants to ask, but the look on her father’s face tells her she will get none of her questions answered. As they walk down the street, strangers look down on them with uncompassionate faces, some even pointing and laughing at them.
One woman crosses the street and puts a piece of soft...
(The entire section is 836 words.)
Chapters 19-20 Summary
The train ride is only a few hours long, and now they are in a small town walking past more people who are pointing and staring. With each mile, the girl thinks about her brother; he must think they have forgotten him, that his sister abandoned him. Surely he feels afraid and unloved. The village is clean and the air smells fresh; however, the camps they are taken to are dirty and grim. Her father is herded away with the men, so the girl grabs onto her mother’s hand. On the other side of the fence, people have everything they need and are clean; no one yells at them or herds them around like cattle. She looks at those children and wonders who decided they get to be happy and loved and free...
(The entire section is 633 words.)
Chapters 21-22 Summary
The girl has seen her father once or twice at the camp, but the only thing she thinks about is her brother. She wakes up at night, horrified at what might have happened to him since she locked him in the cupboard a week ago—or perhaps it has been ten days. The “whirlwind of terror” has made her lose all track of time. One morning a group of mothers is gathered and talking with some animation; they look worried and upset. The girl asks one of them what is so upsetting, and she is told there are rumors that the parents are going to be sent East to work and prepare for their children; the children will follow a couple of days later. The thought is shocking to the girl and appalling to her...
(The entire section is 867 words.)
Chapters 23-24 Summary
This night without their mothers is the worst for the children and for the girl. Everything has been looted—clothes, blankets, pillows—and nothing remains but screaming children and their tears. The older children sit on the floor with their heads in their hands and try to ignore the sounds and smells of despair. No one is comforting the younger ones, and the girl does not understand how the policemen, who no doubt have families of their own, could treat other people’s children this way.
The next day the girl sees that they are being watched through the barbed wire; it is women trying to stuff packages of food through the fences. The policemen stop them, and no one else...
(The entire section is 1008 words.)
Chapters 25-26 Summary
The girl has decided to escape with Rachel. She knows she will die if she does not, and they plan to leave during the day, a time when the policemen seem to be less watchful of them. They will sneak down behind the water tower, where the women had tried to give them food. There is a small hole in the fencing, and they are hopeful they will make it through.
Some children have been taken. Though they are not sure where they went, the girl and Rachel know the children were not reunited with their mothers. The girl wonders why there is so much hatred for Jews and feels as if all the evil in the world is concentrated in this place. She remembers last June, when she overheard neighbors...
(The entire section is 926 words.)
Chapters 27-28 Summary
Rachel and the girl are exhausted but they cannot rest; they must get back to Paris. They stop and take the stars off their clothes as the policeman had told them, and the girl remembers her mother meticulously sewing those stars on her clothing. The memory makes her cry, and Rachel comforts her, asking if the story about a brother in a cupboard is true. The girl nods and Rachel hugs her even closer. Finally she sets her shoulders and stands tall, wanting her parents to be proud of her because she escaped that camp and is now going to Paris to save her brother—and because she is not afraid.
They bury their stars and the girl feels joy, followed by shame at distancing herself...
(The entire section is 605 words.)
Chapters 29-30 Summary
At night the forest does not seem as peaceful, but the girls hold hands for comfort and slowly make their way through until they find a wide path heading toward a meadow. Rachel sees the lights of a car approaching. As they decide whether to stop it or not, they see there is a long line of cars heading their way. There are no bushes for cover, so they press themselves flat against the dirt to avoid being seen by the German soldiers on patrol. They can see the men quite clearly, and the girl anticipates being discovered, but the jeeps keep moving.
After waiting a few moments in the silence, the girls get up and head toward the light from a small farmhouse nearby. Inside the window...
(The entire section is 1290 words.)
Chapters 31-32 Summary
The girl practically attacks the delicious food in front of her. Rachel eats more slowly and does not look well. She is pale and trembling. The old couple asks quiet questions as they serve the girls, but only when they are upstairs preparing to bathe does the girl begin to tell Genevieve everything. As the girl talks, Geneviève gently undresses Rachel and is appalled at her boniness and the angry red blisters all over her body. She bathes Rachel as if she were an infant and then caries her to a bed.
It is now the girl’s turn, and the woman asks her name. Sirka, she says, and Geneviève says it is a pretty name. The girl bathes herself while the old woman tries to scrub her...
(The entire section is 1159 words.)
Chapters 33-34 Summary
For ten minutes after the doctor left, Jules and Geneviève move about the house frantically, the girl following behind them “like a worried puppy.” They finally decide they must keep Rachel where she is, and Geneviève collapses into a chair and cries as Jules attempts to comfort her. The girl is afraid because Jules explains that she must be prepared to crawl into one of the large potato sacks in the cellar and become invisible. Just as she realizes what this means—that the Germans are coming—the dog begins to bark and Jules signals her to go to the cellar. In hiding, she hears the pounding feet and recognizes the sound from her time in Paris. The Germans have come to take her and...
(The entire section is 1101 words.)
Chapters 35-36 Summary
Sarah does not sleep well that night, as she keeps hearing Rachel’s screams and wondering what has happened to all the people she loves. She has many questions but no answers. Her father used to answer all of her questions, but recently her father had not been so forthcoming with his answers. He did not address her questions about the yellow stars, the public swimming pool and movies, the curfew, and that man in Germany whose name made her shiver with fear. Just before the men came, she had asked him again about what made Jews so hateful to others. He turned away as if he had not heard, but she knew he had.
She cannot even remember what her father looks like or the last time...
(The entire section is 1002 words.)
Chapters 37-38 Summary
The train station at Orléans is a busy place swarming with men in uniforms. Sarah stays close between Jules and Geneviève and tries to hide her fear. She is hopeful, having made it this far, that she will actually make it back to Paris. She is determined to be brave and strong. Jules leans down and reminds her that she is their granddaughter, Stéphanie Dufaure, and she had to cut her hair short because she caught lice at school. When Sarah asks if they really have a granddaughter, Geneviève laughs and says she has only several rambunctious grandsons, Gaspard and Nicolas. Their only son is Alain, a man in his forties who lives in Orléans with his wife and sons. Sarah is wearing...
(The entire section is 1152 words.)
Chapters 39-40 Summary
The metro ride to her home is a short one, and Sarah’s heart is beating fast. In a few moments she will be home. She is ten years old and hopes her parents have returned home and her whole family will soon be reunited. She wants to believe it more than anything. She tugs at Jules’s hand, urging him to walk faster. At the same time, a quiet voice inside her warns her not to have too much hope, to prepare for the worst.
When they enter the courtyard, it looks familiar to Sarah. Madame Royer opens a window and Sarah runs to the stairway before she can be seen. The concierge asks if she can help the older couple find someone. When they say they are looking for the Starzynskis,...
(The entire section is 1229 words.)
Chapters 41-42 Summary
Julia is making the necessary appointments, and her doctor asks if she is sure this is what she wants to do. No, she tells the doctor, but for now she must make the appointments. The doctor agrees to make them, though she is not comfortable with Julia’s choice.
Last night Bertrand had said all the things she ever dreamed of hearing him say, expressing his tenderness and love, wanting to spend the years after Zoë leaves with her. The only discordant note was the existence of a baby he still did not want. She thinks now about her sister’s reminder that this is her baby too, and Julia knows this is what she has wanted for so long. She used to want to have a child for...
(The entire section is 849 words.)
Chapters 43-44 Summary
The date of the abortion is the same date as the Vel’ d’Hiv’ commemoration. Julia requested another date, feeling this one was too full of emotions, but there were none available. Zoë is ready to leave for America, and Julia will join her at Charla’s house on the twenty-seventh. Bertrand will not take a vacation until August, and they always go as a family to the Tézac family home in Burgundy. It had never been a relaxed vacation for Julia; things always had to run on a schedule, and Julia always felt left out of the family activities. She does enjoy spending time with Zoë, though.
According to Bertrand and Antoine, the apartment will be ready in early September. While the apartment will be lovely, Julia is...
(The entire section is 1004 words.)
Chapters 45-46 Summary
Two thousand people are gathered along a bridge in Paris to remember a dark moment in the country’s past. Survivors and their families, rabbis, the mayor, the prime minister, the minister of defense, politicians, journalists, and photographers are all gathered here. Thousands of flowers and a platform are the backdrop for the event. Guillaume is standing at Julia’s side, eyes downcast and face solemn. The mayor begins to speak, and an old man next to Julia takes out a hankie and begins to weep noiselessly. Julia wonders what he has lost.
Every face in the audience held sorrow which cannot be removed. As the speech continues, people in the crowd are hugging and crying. Julia speaks with Franck Lévy for a moment and...
(The entire section is 493 words.)
Chapters 47-48 Summary
Gaspard Dufaure’s house is small and neat. At the sink, his wife is cutting vegetables. His voice is gruff as he pats his old, nearly blind dog and tells Julia the story she so wanted to hear. He and his brother knew there had been some trouble during the war, but they were young and did not remember the nature of that trouble. After their grandfather, Jules, died, their father told them that Sarah Dufaure was actually born Sarah Starzynski, was Jewish, and was hidden by their grandparents all those years.
He always thought there was “something sad” about Sarah, and she was a difficult person to reach because her joy was gone. The boys were told their grandparents adopted her because her parents had died during...
(The entire section is 715 words.)
Chapters 49-50 Summary
Gaspard told her Sarah left for the United States in 1952. She wanted to get away, to go someplace that had not been touched by the Holocaust the way France was. The entire family had been upset, especially his grandparents who loved her as their own daughter. Sarah remained unmoved; she left and never came back as far as Gaspard knew. When Julia asked what happened next, Gaspard shrugged and emitted a deep sigh. He stood and the dog followed him. Nathalie was curled up in an armchair, intent on every word either of them spoke. Julia was sure this is a story the girl would always remember.
The old man looked around the room, got more coffee for both of them, and finally sat with another sigh before he began to speak...
(The entire section is 801 words.)
Chapters 51-52 Summary
The phone rings again. This time it is Joshua, telling her he saw her on the eight o’clock news. Julia is surprised and asks what news. He tells her she was standing near the prime minister and looking a little pale but quite pretty nevertheless. Now Julia remembers the Vel’ d’Hiv’ ceremony. She hears her boss light a cigarette and she waits. He is usually blunt, so she wonders what he wants to say to her. Finally he congratulates her on her article and says it is generating a lot of talk. Bamber’s photos were great, he adds. She thanks him and asks what else he wants to say, and he finally says it.
One thing is bothering him about the article she wrote. Julia talked to the survivors, the witnesses, and others...
(The entire section is 570 words.)
Chapters 53-54 Summary
Bertrand looks tense and pale as he takes Julia in his arms and rests his chin on top of her head. She tells him she did not have the abortion. He does not move and says the doctor called him. Julia pulls away, explaining that she just could not do it. Bertrand’s smile seems desperate as he pours himself a drink and swallows it quickly, snapping his head back in an “ugly gesture.” Now what will they do, he asks, and Julia has no answer. He warned her that he could not face the idea of a child but she would not listen, and now he settles himself into the sofa and loosens his shirt and tie. Something about his voice makes Julia look at him more closely.
He looks weary and vulnerable, much like his father did when he...
(The entire section is 883 words.)
Chapters 55-56 Summary
Now that she knows that Sarah Starzynski left Paris fifty years ago and went to the United States, Julia feels compelled to follow her there. She is anxious to see Zoë and to search for Richard J. Rainsferd. She is not sure if Bertrand ever talked to his father about the file; he has been cordial and aloof and impatient for her to leave. Several hours before leaving for New York, Julie calls her father-in-law to say good-bye. Neither of them mentions Bertrand. Edouard wants to know why Sarah stopped writing to Jules and Geneviève, and she tells him that is exactly what she hopes to discover. As she boards the plane, Julia again asks herself the question: is Sarah Starzynski still alive?
When Charla meets Julia at the...
(The entire section is 449 words.)
Chapters 57-58 Summary
Julia pulls into the Rainsferd driveway in Roxbury and sits there for a few moments. The house is not as opulent as some of the others around it, but it is “tasteful and harmonious.” It had been a beautiful drive, though hot, and she thinks about what her sister told her about Roxbury. It is an artistic, trendy, and wealthy town, full of writers, movie stars, and artists. She wonders what Richard Rainsferd did for a living, where he raised his family, and whether he and his wife had any children. Looking at the house now, there is not much evidence of what his life must have been. It is just after two o’clock, and though she is hot sitting in her sister’s car, Julia practices what she will say to Sarah Starzynski—a name...
(The entire section is 817 words.)
Chapters 59-60 Summary
Joshua’s voice is hard to hear; they have a bad connection. Julia has asked him for an advance in her salary and he asks how much in disbelief. She tells him, and he teases her, wonders if Bertrand has suddenly gotten stingy. Julia snaps at him and asks if she can have the money. He agrees but is surprised and worried, for she has never asked him for money. She needs to travel quickly, but there is nothing wrong. She and Zoë are going to Tuscany and she will explain more later. Her tone does not allow any more questions, though Joshua’s curiosity is piqued. He tells her curtly the advance will be in her account later in the day.
She could have asked either Bertrand or Edouard for the money, but both of them would...
(The entire section is 708 words.)
Chapters 61-62 Summary
At their hotel, Julia leaves Zoë chatting with their amiable hostess Giovanna and takes a cool shower, then lies down on the bed. The pain in her abdomen seems to be subsiding. Their adjoining rooms are small, at the very top of the ancient building, and very comfortable. Julia thinks about the conversation she had with her mother before leaving the States. She was concerned because there were so many reasons for Julia not to leave: interrupting Zoë’s vacation, not visiting with her parents, spending so little time back in America. Julia assures her she simply wants to take advantage of the opportunity to travel to Florence with Zoë and will come back later to visit them. She feels guilty for not telling the rest of...
(The entire section is 779 words.)
Chapters 63-64 Summary
The pain in Julia’s stomach is back this morning; it is not intense, but it bothers her with a “discreet persistence.” She decides to ignore it for now. If it continues after lunch, she will ask Giovanna for a doctor. Julia is still thinking about how to broach the subject of Sarah with William. He is here, living a bucolic life, and perhaps he will not want his peaceful world disrupted by the past.
Julia and Zoë discover they can walk on top of the medieval walls, and they join other walkers and joggers as they make their way to the café William suggested. The terrace of the café is practically empty. She is reading the menu to Zoë when he says her name, and she looks up to see a tall, thickset man, perhaps...
(The entire section is 1001 words.)
Chapters 65-66 Summary
Julia wakes up in a small, green hospital room with an IV in her forearm. Zoë squeezes her hand and assures her everything is going to be fine. A young woman comes to her side and tells her she lost a lot of blood but the baby is fine. There was a problem with the placenta, and she needs to rest. When they are alone, Zoë tells Julia how frightened she had been and asks why she did not tell her about the baby. She also wonders if this is why her parents are having problems, and Julia says it is. Zoë knows which of her parents wants the baby and which of them does not.
Bertrand is on his way to Lucca. Zoë called him and he will arrive in a few hours. The news makes Julia cry. Zoë tries to comfort her, but all Julia...
(The entire section is 638 words.)
Chapters 67-68 Summary
Bertrand has decided not to move his family to the rue de Saintonge apartment because of Julia’s pregnancy complications. He is a consistent presence in their apartment, but he is not “spiritually” present. They share a bed, but it is no longer a marital bed. Zoë seems unaffected and often chatters excitedly about the baby. Most people are excited for Julia and her baby, even Joshua who generally scorns both babies and sick leave. But no one ever comments on her broken marriage, and Julia wonders if anyone even notices. Perhaps they think Bertrand will eventually welcome his child, but the two of them know they are just waiting to make their decisions until after the child is born.
Julia is more than ready for...
(The entire section is 978 words.)
Chapters 69-70 Summary
Mamé does not look like she is aware of anything around her, but when Julia speaks to her, the old woman grabs onto her wrist. She knows Julia is there. The Tézac family is all gathered around Mamé’s bed, all of them plus William Rainsferd. Bertrand is looking at him with curiosity, and Edouard has been studying him and clearly wants Julia to make eye contact to confirm his suspicion. Later, as they leave the nursing home, Julia takes Edouard’s arm and tells him how sorry she is. Her father-in-law tells her Mamé loves her dearly. Bertrand appears, looking glum, but this is not the time to discuss any of the issues between them. Only Mamé and William Rainsferd matter right now.
Edouard finally asks who the man...
(The entire section is 759 words.)
Chapters 71-72 Summary
William and Julia are devastated as they realize that Sarah killed herself. William knows her death was not an accident, that his mother drove her car into a tree. William does not move, but Julia can feel him closing her out, drawing away from her. It is a strange feeling, but Julia is sure she can help William, that in some way he is not a stranger to her. Neither of them knows much of anything about each other’s personal lives, about their current joys or pains, yet they share Sarah. Julia longs to show William that his mother’s journey “altered” her life.
William thanks her and gathers his things. Julia knows if he leaves, her last link to Sarah is gone, and he seems to sense that. He tells her he will go to...
(The entire section is 673 words.)
Chapters 73-74 Summary
New York City, 2005
Zoë is playing with her sister on the playground while Julia is feeling overprotective of her two-year-old as they play on the playground. They are in Central Park, and sitting next to Julia is her boyfriend Neil, a divorced lawyer introduced to her by Charla. Julia likes him, but thankfully she is not in love with him and has no intention of marrying him. She has had several boyfriends in the past few years, but none of them...
(The entire section is 403 words.)
Chapters 75-76 Summary
Deciding to move was a simple decision for Julia, and it was almost as simple for Zoë. Bertrand had not been happy at the prospect of having Zoë so far away, but his daughter had been firm about leaving. She promised to come back and visit him every few months, and she told him he could always come to see her and the baby in the United States. Julia had to explain that this move was nothing permanent, that it was simply a way for Zoë to connect with her American side. It would not be forever, though it will probably be a couple of years; it will offer Julia a chance to start over and help her move on with her life.
Bertrand and Amélie were now an official couple. Amélie’s children are nearly adults so they were...
(The entire section is 494 words.)
Chapters 77-78 Summary
Sarah has never left Julia, and she has changed her forever. Julia carries the other woman’s suffering and her story with her, and she feels as if she knows her: as a child, as a young girl, as a forty-year-old housewife and as a mother in Connecticut who intentionally crashed her car into a tree. Julia knows what Sarah looks like and knows she would recognize her if she met her on the street. She knows her.
Zoë, Julia’s smart daughter, catches her mother “Googling” William Rainsferd. Julia lost track of time one afternoon, and Zoë discovers what she was doing and scolds her mother. Embarrassed, Julia admits she has looked him up regularly over the past year, and when Zoë asks where he is, she tells her he...
(The entire section is 554 words.)
Chapters 79-81 Summary
January 2005 is the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and it is commemorated virtually around the world. Never has Julia heard the word “Shoah,” or Holocaust, so often. Every reference to the event reminds Julia of William and Sarah. She wonders if, when he sees the horrifying pictures and film of the tragic events, he thinks of her. He could hardly avoid it, she supposes, since his mother’s family died in that hideous place. Sitting between Charla and Zoë, Julia watches the coverage with grief and remembrance.
On a May afternoon, on a day when she least expects it, William Rainsferd calls Julia. The conversation is minimal and awkward, and William finally asks if she would be able to meet...
(The entire section is 1307 words.)