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The Girl From the Train

Format: Paperback

Availability: In stock

Quick Overview:

Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Auschwitz. Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks.

Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Aushwitz. Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks.

As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They intend to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.

Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her in. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.

But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families—so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.

Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.

Contributor(s) Irma Joubert
About the Contributor(s) Irma Joubert

International bestselling author Irma Joubert was a history teacher for 35 years before she began writing. Her stories are known for their deep insight into personal relationships and rich historical detail. She’s the author of eight novels and a regular fixture on bestseller lists in The Netherlands and in her native South Africa. She is the winner of the 2010 ATKV Prize for Romance Novels. Facebook: irmajoubertpage


ISBN-10 0529102374
ISBN-13 9780529102379
Release Date Nov 3, 2015
Weight (lbs) 1.0000
Height 8.44
Width 5.44
Length 384
Length Unit Pages
Publisher Thomas Nelson
Price $15.99
Format Paperback
Language English

Customer Reviews

Review by Deana
Overall Rating
The story will capture the very essence of superb storytelling from the first page. We are taken to a scene where a young girl, Gertl Schmidt courageously escapes from a train bound for Auschwitz. The train is in a course of disaster due to Jakob who has planted a bomb directly under the bridge where it will cross. Jakob is part of a movement called "Home Away." The story gripped me from the beginning as I got so engrossed that it kept my heart racing . These two characters by their actions will become involved in something that will change their future. Will their decisions have bad consequences? Can they find a better life ?

It is a story with many dimensions such as love, hope and pain that will impact many. The author does an amazing job of telling the history of this era and describes in vivid detail the land where most of us have only read about. Gertl will find herself in South Africa where prejudice is rampant and heartbreaking. It is hard to read about this unjust way of life, but the author writes it with such beauty and depth. We get a glimpse of what war was like and how it can destroy even the most innocent. The characters in the story will experience pain, suffering and withstand many difficulties as they find love and hope that endures them on their quest . It is not a book that you will want to put down. This will be one story I will not forget .

I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson and The Fiction Guild groups which I am a member of for an honest review . (Posted on 1/19/2016)
Review by Sally
Overall Rating
Gretl Schmidt, six years old is on a train with her family bound for Auschwitz. Jakob Kowalski who is part of the Polish resistance against Germany and Russia must destroy a German troop transport train and plants a bomb on the tracks. Little did he realize the train he blew up was the one Gretl and her family was riding. She was the only survivor. Although Gretl was spared the Concentration Camp, being a Catholic orphaned German-Jew in a country that is hostile to her people is dangerous. Jakob spends three years caring for her and guarding her secret. When it is no longer safe for her to remain with him, he sends her to South Africa where German orphans are placed with Protestant families. They are promised bright futures as long as no one ever finds out Gretl’s true secret.

Jakob is broken-hearted because he will never be able to see Gretl grow up. Time, events and politics will send Jakob across the continents in search of a safe-haven...Will Gretl and Jakob ever see each other again? Will their hearts ever be able to triumph over the ravages of war? Those questions will be answered as you turn the pages of “The Girl from the Train”.

Few books touch my heart the way this one did. It will be with me long after I read the last page. I was hooked from the very first page. I couldn’t put it down because I had to keep turning the pages to find out what would happen to Jakob and six-year-old Gretl as they struggled to survive the ravages of war and to keep the secrets they must in order for them to stay safe. This book is filled with love, trust and forgiveness in the face of adversity. This is truly a must-read book especially if you like books that take place during World War II. I would give this book ten stars!

Disclosure: I was given a copy of this eBook by the publisher, Thomas Nelson, through NetGalley blogger program for review. I was not required to write a favorable review nor was I compensated for my review. The opinions in this review are my own.
(Posted on 12/6/2015)
Review by Angie
Overall Rating
If it were possible to give this a hundred stars, that still would not be enough to show how very much I love this book.
Maybe the following two things will.

1. This is the second best book that I’ve read in 2015.
2. This is the second best book that I have ever read in the thirty seven years that I’ve been reading.

I always have such a hard time writing reviews because I find it hard to be careful of what details I should mention and what I should not.

The Girl From The Train is based off of true stories told by German war orphans who had been sent to South Africa to be adopted in order to “strengthen the Aryan bloodlines”. Gretl – her name changes a few times throughout the book depending on where she is – is one resilient child who adapts quickly from the ravages of WWII to being rescued by a young man who takes her home to his family in Poland and then leaves her to fight in the Home Army and nearly dies; from being left in a German orphanage in the hopes of her being adopted by a South African family to being adopted and adapting to a comfortable lifestyle where clothes were numerous, shoes were no longer a luxury, and the instant love of a family who enveloped her and made her feel safe.

The author packs quite the punch as we’re treated to Gretl’s story over the span of fifteen years. It’s easy to tell that English is not her (the author, that is} native language, but it didn’t take away from the story. Even though I didn’t like parting from the book, I found myself looking up the meanings of German, Polish, and Afrikaans words and items that I’d never heard of {such as a Primus Stove}.

If there was something missing, it was only my inquisitive nature to learn more of the ghetto that Gretl talked about several times. There’s also the fact that so much of Gretl’s life was glossed over and seemed a bit too perfect once she was adopted by the Neethlings and she settled down into her new family and country. It wasn’t until the last 50 pages that she – and Jakob – really struggled with their relationship and the changes that took place.

Differing faiths are weaved throughout the book, but it’s more prominent in the first half, and only really an issue in the last fifty pages or so. There is minor cussing, kissing, drinking, and smoking that is mentioned, but for me it didn’t take away from the inspirational tone. Throughout time people drank wine – Jesus turned water into wine! – people kiss outside of marriage, light cussing isn’t always frowned upon {nothing more than bloody hell or one use of the word bastard}, and men smoked cigars.

Again, the author of this book is Afrikaans and it’s easy to tell that English is not her first language. I recommend this book for anyone over the age of sixteen; especially those with a love of history and an unexpected romance blossoming through one of the darkest times humanity has ever lived through.

Disclaimer: Many thanks to Thomas Nelson/Zondervan and the Fiction Guild for sending me an ARC of this beautiful book. All opinions expressed in this review are of my own. My review can also be seen on my blog, OnceUponABook.Net (Posted on 11/9/2015)
Review by Brittany at the Books and Biscuits Blog
Overall Rating
Irma Joubert’s novel, The Girl from the Train, had been an international bestseller in South Africa and The Netherlands before arriving here in the United States. Translated for the first time into English, the novel is now being released by Thomas Nelson and HarperCollins Christian Publishing. In the midst of World War II, young Gretl Schmidt escapes from a train heading toward Auschwitz. Despite the help of a picture of her German SS soldier and her Lutheran baptismal certificate, Gretl’s Jewish grandmother was her only means of identity. Hiding the truth of her past becomes essential to her survival. On her perilous journey toward safety, she meets Jakob Kowalski, a young Polish man determined to free his country from the grips of other nations. On his family’s farm, Gretl finds a delicate form of shelter, but the war and her hidden identity each continue to touch her life in countless ways. The realities of communism encroach on Gretl’s life, forcing Jakob to send her to an orphanage in Germany with the hopes that she is relocated to the safety of a Christian family in South Africa. After years of ever-changing languages, names, and religious identity, Gretl’s life in Africa seems idyllic. However, she must finally determine for herself who she really is by coming to grips with her unique past.

Overall, The Girl from the Train could be summarized in one word: brilliant! After reading Christian historical fiction and scholarly monographs on related subjects for years, this novel is the first I would distinguish in the rare caliber of literature. Ms. Joubert accomplishes a rare feat in fully engaging her readers with a timeless story of perseverance and faith in the midst of exceptional trial. Additionally, she brings to life the incredible stories of Poland’s Home Army, Germany’s war orphans, and the racial and political persecution that perpetuated the challenges faced by the real-life individuals personified in Gretl’s character. Perhaps of most interest to Christian fiction readers, the novel reveals the fascinating lengths that religious identity played within the period, especially as Gretl is forced to change her affiliations as a result of family, politics, and war to survive. In the moment when Gretl’s South African adopted father denies the existence of the Holocaust, without realizing his own daughter’s heritage or wartime experiences, The Girl from the Train became one of the most compelling books of the year. Personally, I think The Girl from the Train has the potential to be this generation’s answer to Bryce Courtenay’s The Power of One, capturing the human experience and personifying it within a character’s ability to overcome some of history’s greatest challenges.

Special thanks to Thomas Nelson and the Fiction Guild for the advanced copy of The Girl from the Train!

Brittany at
(Posted on 10/13/2015)
Review by Callie
Overall Rating
I can count on one hand the times that a book has overwhelmed me so much emotionally that I have had to lay the book aside just to settle my heart and tears. This book is wrought with deep emotions that portray the historical events with straight forward accuracy.

The often fearful journey of a young girl that asked only to be cared for and loved will move you to tears. Okay, maybe it's just me but this is one incredibly powerful book that shows a small peek into what life was like for the many children affected by this atrocious war.

God has a way of clearing a path that otherwise you might not have ever seen. This is a wonderful book that shows the depth of God's love in the most incredible way.

This is a story laden with the abundance of God's protection, grace, mercy, love, and complete and total healing. Nothing is impossible with God.

I mourned. I cried. I waited with bated breath. This story captivated me and I devoured each page so that I would learn the outcome of young Gretl. This is a wonderful and compelling portrayal of a time in history that most people would rather forget. I have added this book to my "do not miss" reading list.

*I received an advance reader's copy from TNZ Fiction Guild in exchange for my honest opinion and review. No other compensation was received.* (Posted on 9/26/2015)

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