Karolina's Twins

by Ronald H. Balson

Book, 2016



Call number




New York : St. Martin's Press, 2016.


"Lena Woodward, an elderly woman, enlists the help of both lawyer Catherine Lockhart and private investigator Liam Taggart to appraise the story of her harrowing past in Nazi occupied Poland. At the same time, Lena's son Arthur presents her with a hefty lawsuit under the pretense of garnering her estate--and independence--for his own purposes. Where these stories intersect is through Lena's dubious account of her life in war-torn Poland, and her sisterhood with a childhood friend named Karolina. Lena and Karolina struggled to live through the atrocity of the Holocaust, and at the same time harbored a courageous, yet mysterious secret of maternity that has troubled Lena throughout her adult life. In telling her story to Catherine and Liam, Lena not only exposes the realities of overcoming the horrors of the Holocaust, she also comes to terms with her own connection to her dark past. Karolina's Twins is a tale of survival, love, and resilience in more ways than one. As Lena recounts her story, Catherine herself also recognizes the unwavering importance of family as she prepares herself for the arrival of her unborn child. Through this association and many more, both Lena and Catherine begin to cherish the dogged ties that bind not only families and children, but the entirety of mankind"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Carolee888
It was hard to tear myself away from Karolina’s Twins by Ronald Balson. There were two stories, the bigger story which was completely fictional helped tie the thread of the inner story together. The inner story is based on the experiences of Fay Schaf Waldman. I believe that the author took the
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right route in making this a historical fiction book.

Lena Woodward hires Liam Taggart and Catherine Lockhart, husband and wife with separate law practices in Chicago to track down her dear friend, Karolina’s two daughters. In order to get clues about where they might be, Lena needs to tell her Holocaust story. Lena is now 89 and her son thinks that Karolina and the children are imaginary and it would her and the estate to waste money on the hunt and have people not turn up. Her son is a minor character seems to be a device to propel the story forward at a faster speed.

The characters of Liam and Catherine stayed in the background a lot, their conversations with what Liam was finding in his investigation helps to make the story more concrete. Lena starts at the beginning in Poland when her father had a shop. He was WWI war hero and well respected. Lena relates how she followed her father’s instructions to hide when the Nazis came to arrest him and his family. Her story is a lot about survival and the will to live. You can feel her fear of being alone with not knowing what was going on and if anyone she knew was still living. When she is in the sewing factory, you are wondering if she would survive and why she survived. As the story progress, the story shows how the life of the women in the factory became worse and worse as the war progress. The fear of being caught protecting someone, helping someone were enormous.

I am very thankful to read this story and to know that that Fay Schaf Waldman survived. Ronald H. Balson wrote this story of survival and love with great care and sensitivity. I highly recommend to all who want to learn as much as possible about the Holocaust. Also, since I am impressed with his writing, I now want to read all that this author has written.

I received an Advanced Reading copy of this book from the Publisher as a win from FirstReads but that in no way made a difference in my thoughts
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LibraryThing member pennsylady
"Lena Woodward, elegant and poised, has lived a comfortable life among Chicago Society since she immigrated to the US and began a new life at the end of World War II." (from Amazon synopsis)

There is a particular reason that it is time to honor an unfulfilled promise she made long ago.
She requests
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the assistance of lawyer Catherine Lockhart and private investigator Liam Taggart and it's in their presence that this poignant tale unfolds.

I was thoroughly engaged in the life story of Lena Scheinman.
Chrzanow, Poland was her birthplace (1924), the earlier years of loving familial covenant are in place and the story develops with fervor as Germany invades Poland in 1939.

Love, survival and resilience are the cornerstone of this novel,
Nazi-occupied Poland and the bond Lena shared with her childhood friend, Karolina are developed in rich detail.
There is, of course, specific emphasis on the Jewish population and the injustice dealt them under Nazi occupation.

There is a subplot, which will be successfully resolved.
Lena's son Arthur has reason to pursue a declaration of incompetence for his mother.

I found this rewarding historical fiction.
Balson successfully transported me to this era and I came away

The following is an author acknowledgment:

"Karolina's Twins is a work of fiction.
The story was inspired by the life of Fay Scharf Waldman.
....Karolina's Twins is not intended to be a biographical account of Fay's life.
Lena Woodward is a fictional character. who experienced many of the travails described to me by Fay, but, some of the episodes,mthough authentic in their occurrence to others, did not involve Fay,"
The author has also drawn upon memoirs, Yizkor Books, museum
archives and personal stories conveyed to the author.

I hope I have encouraged you to review the history of World WarII Poland and engage in a heart warming/breaking tale.

4.5 ★

Thank you to Reading Group Gold who provided my copy to read and review.
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LibraryThing member Sarah_Gruwell
I must be in the severe minority when it came to this book and author. Maybe it was trying to get into characters and story while starting with book three; don’t know. Yet, I found myself disappointed, DNF-ing at 20% because I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Given the hype this author has
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garnered, there’s got to be something to his writing. I heard his first book was on book club reading lists, a bestseller, and the rights have recently been optioned for a movie. So obviously something good is going on here.

Apparently I’m not like most folks. Maybe books one and two were better. However, this one was a chore to get through, even up to the point of the 20% where I dropped it. Except for a few scenes between Catherine and Liam, the entire first 20% was one huge information dump in the form of a lawyer interview, conveying Lena’s story of Holocaust survival.

While the information and story doesn’t lend itself to boredom, I found myself slogging through one endless conversation. I couldn’t immerse myself into Lena’s story as we were just told everything. The sights, sounds, and emotions of that suspenseful tale were lost in the format in which they were told. I never thought I’d come across a book that would make the Holocaust boring, but this book accomplished that.

Sad to say I wasn’t thrilled with this one, especially since I dropped it so quickly. The endless slog of a lawyer interview/conversation that lasted chapters killed it quickly. Maybe if the author had chosen a different layout or format to tell the story. Who knows? I might give books one and two a look; maybe I’ll get the author’s writing style and Catherine’s and Liam’s characters better then. Sad I started with this one, though.

Note: Book received for free from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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LibraryThing member SilversReviews
Re-telling your nightmare of living in occupied Poland during WWII would stir up emotions that I would want to forget, but Lena Scheinman Woodward wanted it told.

Lena Woodward lived in Poland during the holocaust, lost her entire family, but did find her best friend, Karolina, in the factory where
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they were required to work and make coats for the Germans.

We are there as Lena tells of her experiences to an attorney and private investigator in hopes of getting the help she needs to fulfill the promise she made to her friend Karolina to find her twins.

Lena Woodard made a promise to her friend 70 years ago, and now at the age of 89 decided to tell her story and to try to find Karolina's children that sadly had to be abandoned because of the situation they were in.

When Lena's son finds out she is telling her story, he causes problems because he is worried about his inheritance being taken by the attorney and the investigator even though he indicates his concern is only with his mother's welfare.

As Lena's story unfolded for her attorney, Catherine, we re-lived with her the terror and atrocities committed by the Nazis, and we learned that there was a secret Lena had been keeping for 70 years.

Lena and Catherine were two characters I loved. They were strong, determined women. Liam was fun. Arthur, Lena's son, was not pleasant. I truly enjoyed the interaction of the characters both present day and past as Lena told her story.

KAROLINA'S TWINS flowed very nicely, and was another well-researched book by Mr. Balson. Mr. Balson has a marvelous writing style and a knack for keeping readers interested by combining facts with human interest.

Mr. Balson indicated that his book is fiction, but it is similar to the life of Fay Scharf Waldman whom he met after writing his first book.

World War II buffs will add yet another layer to their interest and desire to learn the truth. 5/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.
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LibraryThing member wagner.sarah35
A good, if somewhat gut-wrenching, tale of the Holocaust and a search for two infant children who went missing in the Polish countryside during World War II. As difficult as it was to read this story of a Jewish girl who experienced the murder of her entire family, life in a Nazi ghetto, and escape
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from a concentration camp, the story ended on a deeply inspiring and healing note. I'd recommend this to those who enjoy novels set during WWII.
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LibraryThing member booklovers2
One of the most heart wrenching stories of the Holocaust I have read. So many horrific stories out there. This is based on a True Story about an 89 year old Holocaust Survivor in present day who hires a detective and his lawyer wife to find the twin daughters born during the war in a Jewish Camp
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and the heart wrenching decision to do the unthinkable to save their lives. Listened to this on audible audio - Have tissues when you read this, you will need them.
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LibraryThing member susan0316
Karolina's Twins is a book about the Holocaust. Even though there is a modern day story line going on too, the primary story is about what happened to Lena Woodward in Poland before and during the dark days of WWII. At the start of the book, she approaches a lawyer and investigator to help her find
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the twins of her best friend from home. She had promised Karolina that she would find the babies after the war but had waited over 70 years to start looking for them. Even though they all feel that it may be impossible to find the babies after so many years, Catherine and Liam listen to the horrific story of her life and try to help her.

The book is very dark, as are all books about this time period, but there are also some bright spots in the modern story line. I found the characters interesting, especially Lena and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It's one that you won't want to put down until the end.

My only complaint is that there is no mention in the blurbs for this book that it is part of a series. There are a lot of references to previous cases that Catherine and Liam worked on and it would have been nice to have read those books previous to this one. I plan to go back and read them now.

(Thanks to Book Browse for a copy of this book for a fair and honest review.)
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LibraryThing member 66usma
The book tells the story of a young , Jewish girl (Lena) and how her life is impacted by the Nazi occupation of her hometown in Poland. Seventy years after the conclusion of the war she has the desire to locate two babies that were taken(?) from her childhood friend (Karolina) on their way to
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Auschwitz. If you liked The Nightingale, I think that you will enjoy this story.
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LibraryThing member tamarack804
Right up there with Once We Were Brothers this books was excellent. A lot of drama, hardship, tragedy and love . Well wrote about the hardships of WWII and the Jewish people the book kept me glued to everypage. Going back and forth between past and present was done very well. Near the ending I had
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to slow down since I did not want the book to end. Another great read by Ronald H. Balson.
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LibraryThing member nwieme
Horrifying and joyous.
LibraryThing member kbranfield
Based on real life events, Karolina's Twins by Ronald H. Balson is a riveting novel about a Holocaust survivor's search for her best friend's twin daughters more than 70 years later. Although this is the third book featuring lawyer Catherine Lockhart and private investigator Liam Taggart, it can be
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read as a standalone.

At 89 years of age, Lena Woodward might be feeling the physical effects of her advanced years but her mind is still sharp as a tack. Realizing she is running out of time to fulfill a long ago promise, she contacts Liam and Catherine to help her locate her childhood friend Karolina Neuman's twin daughters whom she has not seen since they were just a few months old. Lena and Karolina are childhood friends whose lives were torn apart when the Nazis invaded their hometown in Poland.

Forced to work as seamstresses in a coat factory, the young women manage, with the help of Karolina's German lover, to survive extreme conditions. Not long after Karolina gives birth to twin daughters, the coat factory shuts down and the women are sent to Gross-Rosen concentration camp where they are forced to work as slave labor. Knowing the babies' fate if they arrive at the camp, Lena and Karolina take drastic measures that will hopefully save the girls from a horrific fate. After surviving Auschwitz, Lena marries and moves to the United State but the fate of Karolina's twins weighs heavily on her mind.

Needing to know whether or not the girls survived, Lena hopes Liam and Catherine can trace the girls' whereabouts. However, her son Arthur is convinced she is suffering from dementia and his efforts to have her declared incompetent could interfere with their efforts. After so many years have passed and hampered by the impending court case, will Liam and Catherine uncover the truth about what happened to Karolina's twins?

Lena's life in Poland was rather idyllic in the years before the Nazi occupation. Her parents are well-respected shop owners in the Jewish community where they live a rather comfortable life. Her friendship with Karolina begins while they are attending public school together and although Lena eventually transfers to a private school, they remain close friends.

As the Nazis begin rising to power, Lena's father starts making arrangements for the family to immigrate from Poland, but the Germans invade Poland before they are able to leave. Stripped of their business and forced to adhere to the strict rules all Jews must follow, Lena's father is a member of the Polish resistance. After he and the rest of the family are selected for "relocation", Lena, now a teenager, remains in hiding until their home is taken over by Germans and she begins searching for her missing family.

Finding shelter in the ghetto, she works in the coat factory where she is reunited with Karolina. Conditions are almost unbearable as the young women live without running water, electricity and heat as they work long hours in the factory. Food is strictly rationed and as winter descends, the harsh weather and poor nutrition take a horrific toll on the people living in the ghetto.

In the midst of this unimaginable horror, the birth of Karolina's twins is an unexpected bright spot but as the war continues, the Nazis put their plans in motion to exterminate the Jews. More and more Jews are sent to concentration camps where children, the elderly and the infirm are separated and sent to their deaths. Those who are healthy are selected to work as slave labor but their lives are often cut short as malnutrition, harsh living conditions and illness take their toll. Knowing full well what will happen to the babies, the women make a split second decision to try to save them from certain death but this choice haunts Lena for the most of her life.

Interspersed with Lena's account of her wartime experiences is Arthur's effort to have her declared incompetent. He is quite odious and it is difficult to ascertain his motives for the case. Is Arthur genuinely concerned for his mother's health? Or are his reasons financially motivated due to his mother's wealth? His heavy-handed tactics and sneering conversations certainly cloud the issue and leave everyone wondering what he hopes to accomplish with his actions.

Although some of the dialogue is a little awkward and the court case is a little overly dramatic (and unnecessary), Karolina's Twins is an absolutely compelling novel about Lena's experiences as a Jewish woman living in Nazi occupied Poland. Ronald H. Balson deftly blends fact with fiction and brings this fictionalized account of actual events vibrantly to life. This poignant story is a gripping and educational read that I highly recommend.
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LibraryThing member hobbitprincess
A Holocaust survivor, a touch lawyer, and her private detective husband all combine to search for babies who went missing decades eariler, during WWII. There is also family drama and secrets kept for a very long time. This is one of the better books I've read in a long time. I loved all of the main
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characters and got caught up in Lena's story. This is a poignant novel about a time in history we do not need to forget.
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LibraryThing member Dianekeenoy
This is an excellent story of the Holocaust and a search for two babies who went missing in the Polish countryside during World War II. Seventy years later, Lena goes to Liam Taggert, a private investigator; and his wife, Catherine Lockhard, a lawyer, to find the missing twins of her best friend,
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Karolina. Her son, Arthur is claiming that she is senile and delusional and needs protection from Liam and Catherine. This is an excellent book and I highly recommend it. So glad that I read it.
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LibraryThing member teeth
I was more than thrilled to receive an ARC of Karolina's Twins from Netgalley and St. Martin's Press as I had read Ronald Balson's two previous books and loved them both! He is my new favorite author. Karolina's Twins did not disappoint and is a must read! Karolina's Twins is a book about the
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Holocaust and also a legal thriller. It tells a story about a Holocaust survivor who hires a private investigator, Liam and Catherine, a lawyer, to find twin girls born to a Jewish girl in Poland during World War II. The author did a great job of developing strong characters and a well-developed plot. I will be eagerly awaiting Ronald Balson's next book!
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Original publication date

2016-09 (St. Martins's Press, New York)


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