Divided into the movements in musical work of art, this novel follows the Zingel family from Vienna as Hitler is coming to power and then taking over Austria, in the slow moving first movement at a largo pace. Told from the point of view of Orly the youngest member of the Zingel family, born into a musical family in Vienna, living in a building owned by her grandparents, she from birth, is best friends with the upstairs neighbor, Annalise. Though the parents are not close they all share the building and watching over the two girls. But the differences become more apparent as the Nazi party comes into power and eventually the Night of Broken Glass changes everything.
As Orly's parents, her father a violist with the Symphony and her mother, a treasured opera singer, realize that their music and popularity will not save them, they prepare to take their family out of Austria. Leaving behind her older brother, Willi who will escape through the underground, they finally book passage to Bolivia, as Steil takes us into a crescendo building up to the boat passage out of Austria and their introduction to life in Bolivia. Life was hard for the displaced Jews who were able to escape there during the war. So the next section of the musical piece is more of an agitated pace, quickly changing direction as they jump from a full life of connection to a life of confusion, loss of language, loss of familiar foods and traditions.
Orly has an easier time of adjusting than her parents and she embraces the new language and lifestyle. We follow her life as the years go by and she grows from a ten year old child to an adult woman. So many incredible encounters and hardships happen to this family. They all have to deal with the hard lifestyle of the mountains of Bolivia, foreign language, altitude sickness, different culture and finally the Nazis they were trying to escape. All these experiences are representative of what really happened to people who went to South America. Steil spent years interviewing the remaining survivors and their descendants to share their real life stories in this novel. So this is a great book to read, to learn about a different perspective about a time and place in history.
So now we have come to the conclusion of this powerful piece of literature and our musical concert. The tempo reaches its ending with a mezzo-forte, moderately loud passage, though it is still restrained in style. Because exile can mean so many things. Exile from your home, exile from your culture, exile from your friends. Orly works to triumph over the tragedies of being exiled in so many ways.