Wow, what a book! Alice Hoffman's The World That We Knew is an incredible story about a mother's fierce love to protect her 12-year-old daughter, Lea, from the evil being wrought by the Germans during World War II. Berlin in 1941 is a dangerous place for Jews. Lea's mother, Hanni Kohn is desperate to find a way to get her daughter out of harm's way. She seeks out a rabbi with mystical powers to create a golem, a mythical creature made of mud and clay as Lea's guardian. The rabbi's wife refuses on behalf of her family. Ettie, the rabbi's 12-year-old daughter confides she has watched her father and is willing to help, knowing as a woman, she would be committing blasphemy.
Hanni was not going to trust a male monster to care for her daughter and insists it must be a female. "It must be a woman. A mother figure who would feel not a forced duty, but real, tangible love. To make sure of this she has saved a vial of tears, which she now poured over the creature's eyes. See as I see. Do as I would have. Be who I might have become."
When the creature named Ava comes to life, Hanni begs Ava for one thing, to love her as if she were your own. "I want you to feel what I feel. Do you understand what I mean? Real love. That is what I feel for my daughter, and what I will always feel for her, no matter what happens. Even when I am no longer here." Ava assures her with tears in her eyes.
I can't praise this book enough. It is a tightly knitted story of being human and feeling unbreakable love.