Memories of Glass

Reminiscent of Diane Ackerman’s The Zookeeper’s Wife, this stunning novel draws from true accounts to shine a light on a period of Holland’s darkest history and bravest heroes.

1942. As war rips through the heart of Holland, childhood friends Josie van Rees and Eliese Linden partner with a few daring citizens to rescue Eliese’s son and hundreds of other Jewish children who await deportation in a converted theater in Amsterdam. But amid their resistance work, Josie and Eliese’s dangerous secrets could derail their friendship and their entire mission. When the enemy finds these women, only one will escape.

Seventy-five years later, Ava Drake begins to suspect that her great-grandfather William Kingston was not the World War II hero he claimed to be. Her work as director of the prestigious Kingston Family Foundation leads her to Landon West’s Ugandan coffee plantation, and Ava and Landon soon discover a connection between their families. As Landon’s great-grandmother shares the broken pieces of her story, Ava must confront the greatest loss in her own life—and powerful members of the Kingston family who will do anything to keep the truth buried.

Illuminating the story and strength of these women, award-winning author Melanie Dobson transports readers through time and place, from World War II Holland to contemporary Uganda, in this rich and inspiring novel.

Read an Excerpt Now




Flower petals clung like scraps of wet silk on Josie’s toes as she ducked alongside the village canal. Klaas Schoght could search all afternoon if he wanted. As long as she and her brother stuck to their plan, he would never find them or the red, white, and blue flag they’d sworn to protect.

Klaas’s hair, shimmering like golden frost, bobbed above his family’s neatly trimmed hedge across the canal from her. She watched the sprig of sunlit hair as Klaas combed through the shrubs, then between two punts tied up to a piling, before he turned toward the wooden bridge.

There were no roads in Giethoorn—only narrow footpaths and canals that connected the checkered plots. Most of the village children spent their time swimming, boating, and skating the waterways, but her brother preferred playing this game of resistance on land.

“Jozefien?” Klaas called as he crossed over to the small island her family shared with a neighbor.

She ducked between the waxy leaves of her mother’s prized hydrangea bushes, the blossoms spilling pale-purple and magenta petals into a slootje—one of the many threads of water that stitched together the islands. Her brother had taught her how to hide well in the village gardens and trees and wooden slips. Even on the rooftops. She could disappear for hours, if necessary, into one of her secret spaces.

“Samuel?” Klaas was shouting now, but Josie’s brother didn’t respond either.

All the children learned about the Geuzen—Dutch Resistance—at school, their people fighting for freedom from Spain during the Eighty Years’ War. Her brother was a master of hide-and-seek, like he was one of the covert Geuzen members fighting for freedom centuries ago.

In their game with Klaas, neither she nor Samuel could be tagged before her brother pinned the Dutch flag onto the Schoght family’s front door. Klaas didn’t really care whose team he was on, as long as he won.

Between the flowers and leaves, Josie saw the hem of Samuel’s breeches disappear up into a fortress of horse-chestnut leaves. They had a plan, the two of them. Now all she had to do was hide until her brother signaled her to dive.

It wasn’t the doing, Samuel liked to tell her, that was key to resisting their enemy. It was the waiting.

And Klaas hated to wait.

The boy wore a black cape over his Boy Scout uniform, but she could see the white rings around the top of his kneesocks as he searched one of her family’s boats.

This afternoon he wasn’t Klaas Schoght, proud scout, tenacious son of their village doctor. This afternoon he was the pompous Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, the Spanish governor over Holland, trying to capture the Dutch resisters and their flag made from the fabric of one of Mama’s old dresses that was, thankfully, too threadbare to remake into a shift for her only daughter.

Josie much preferred wearing the long shorts and blouses that her mother reluctantly allowed during the summer so she wouldn’t keep ruining her dresses. And even more, the Brownie uniform she wore today—a light-brown dress that hung inches below her knee. Her knit beret and brown shoes and long socks were tucked away in the house behind her.

The three of them had developed the rules for this game, but she and her brother kept their own names—Josie and Samuel van Rees, the children of a teacher and a housewife who sometimes helped at the kinderschool.

Klaas didn’t know that the Dutch flag had climbed the tree with Samuel this afternoon. When her brother gave the signal, Josie would distract Klaas so Samuel could hang the stripes of red, white, and blue on the door.

Water lapped against the bank, and she glanced again between a web of white blossoms and waxy leaves to see if Klaas had jumped into the water. Instead of Klaas, she saw a neighbor pushing his punt down the canal with a pole.

Her knee scraped on one of the branches, and she pulled it back, wiping the glaze of blood on a leaf before it stained the hem of her uniform.

The injuries from their battles were frequent, but now that she was nine, she tended to them on her own. Once, a year or so back, she’d run inside with a battle wound. Mama took one look and fainted onto the kitchen floor.

Ever since, Josie visited Klaas’s father if she had a serious wound.

When the punt was gone, she listened for the thud of Klaas’s boots along the bank, but all she heard was the cackling of a greylag, irritated at Josie for venturing too close to the seven goslings paddling behind her in a neat row. They looked like Dutch soldiers following their orange-billed colonel, each one uniformed in a fuzzy yellow coat and decorated with brown stripes earned perhaps for braving the canals all the way to the nearby lake called Belterwijde.

If only she could reach out and snatch one of the goslings, snuggle with it while she waited in her hiding spot, but the mother colonel would honk, giving away her location to the governor of Spain. And Fernando Álvarez de Toledo would brag for days about his triumph. Again.

This time, she and Samuel were determined to be the victors.

Long live the resistance!

The battalion of geese swam around the punt below her and disappeared.

“Jozefien!” Klaas was much closer now, though she didn’t dare look out again to see where he was.

Did he know Samuel was up in the tree behind her? Klaas didn’t like climbing trees, but his fear of heights would be overpowered by his resolve to win.

A stone splashed into the canal, rocking the boat, and her heart felt as if it might crash through her chest. Operation van Rees was about to begin. While Klaas was searching for whoever threw the stone, she would hide on the other side of the bridge.

She shed her dress and slipped into the cool water in her shift like her brother had instructed, holding her breath as she kicked under the surface like a marsh frog escaping from a heron. Six long kicks and she emerged under the wood bridge, her long knickers and undershirt sticking to her skin, the water cold in the shadow. From the canal she could see Klaas rummaging through Mama’s flowers, and above him, Samuel descending from the tree, ready to race across the bridge.

Beside her, carved into the wood, were three sets of initials.

S.v.R.   J.v.R.   K.S.

The boys didn’t know that she’d carved their initials here, but this recording of their names made it feel permanent. As if nothing could ever change between them. Often she, Samuel, and Klaas were the worst of enemies in their play, but in reality, they were the best of friends.

Josie inched away from the bridge, toward the narrow pilings behind her that kept the bank from sliding into the canal. Something moved on her left, and she turned toward the house of Mr. and Mrs. Pon. The Pons didn’t have any children, but an older girl was watching Klaas from the porch.

A German Jewish man and his daughter—refugees, Mama had said—were moving in with the Pon family. Josie had learned German, along with English, at school. Tomorrow, perhaps, she would ask the German girl to play. They could resist Spain together.

Samuel’s bare feet padded across the bridge; Klaas would be close behind. She dove back under the surface and emerged once again, this time in her secret hiding space between the moss-covered pilings, tucked back far enough under the quay so Klaas couldn’t see her chestnut-colored hair.

She couldn’t touch the bottom in the middle of the canal, but it was shallow under the wood awning. Her toes sank into the mud as her chin rested an inch or two above the surface, and she waited patiently between the pilings, like Samuel had instructed, until he hung the flag on Klaas’s door.

One of the goslings, a renegade like her, paddled by without his fleet. Then he turned around to study her.

“Ga weg,” she whispered, rippling the water with her hands. The gosling rode the tiny waves, but he didn’t leave.

She pressed through the water again, the ripples stronger this time, but the gosling moved closer to her as if she were his mother. As if she could rescue him. She reached out a few inches, just far enough to pet the creature but not so far that anyone could see.

The moment her hand slipped out from under the platform, a face leaned over the ledge, lips widening into a smile when he saw her. Then his fingers sliced across his throat.

“Klaas!” she screamed, her heart pounding.

He laughed. “You have to find another hiding place.”

She huffed. “Samuel told me to hide here.”

Klaas jumped off the bank in a giant flip, knees clutched to his chest, and when he landed, water flooded over her nose and mouth. She swam out into the center, splashing him back as he circled her. He might be four years older, but neither he nor his impersonation of Fernando frightened her.

“You don’t always have to listen to Samuel,” he said.

“Yes, I do.” Klaas didn’t know anything about having a brother, or a sister for that matter. Nor did he listen to much of what anyone told him, including his father. Sometimes it seemed that he believed he was governor of Giethoorn instead of the make-believe Spanish general.

“The Dutch have won!” Samuel exclaimed triumphantly from the opposite bank.

Klaas shook his head. “I found Jozefien before you pinned the flag.”

“I pinned it five minutes ago.”

Klaas lifted himself up onto the bank, facing Samuel. They were the same age, but her brother was an inch taller.

“It’s been at least six minutes since I found her,” Klaas said, hands on his hips, the black cape showering a puddle around him.

“You did not!” She whirled her arms through the water, attempting to splash him again, but the canal water rained back down on her instead.

“I did.”

The two boys faced off, and for a moment, she thought Klaas might throw a punch. Maybe then Samuel would fight for what was right instead of letting Klaas win again.

“I suppose you won,” Samuel said, surrendering once more.

She groaned. Her brother always let Klaas win whenever his friend claimed victory. Why wouldn’t he stand up for himself and for her? For Holland?

Klaas raised both fists in the air. “To Spain!”

“To the resistance,” she yelled as the boys turned toward Klaas’s house.

Fuming, she swam back toward the bridge, to the underwater steps built for those who didn’t want to hop up on the planks as Klaas had done. When she passed by the cropping of initials, she rapped them with her knuckles.

The best of friends, perhaps, but some days Klaas made her so mad. And Samuel, too, for not fighting back when Klaas lied to him.

The next time they played, the resistance would win.

As Josie climbed the mossy steps out of the water, the German girl inched closer to the canal. She had dark-brown hair, draped rather short around her head, and her brown eyes seemed to catch the light on the canal, reflecting back.

“I’m Anneliese,” the girl said in German. “But my friends call me Eliese. I’m ten.”

Josie introduced herself, speaking in the German language that her father had taught all the village children.

The girl sat on the grass, pulling the skirt of her jumper over her knees. “Would you like to be friends?”

Josie smiled—another girl, a friend, living right next door. They would be friends for life.

“I’m Klaas.”

Josie turned to the opposite bank to see both boys standing there, Samuel with his mouth draped open as if he might swallow the light.

Josie waited for Samuel to introduce himself, but when he didn’t speak, Josie waved toward him. “That’s my brother standing beside Klaas. He’ll come to his senses soon.”

Samuel glared at Josie before introducing himself. And when he did, Eliese smiled at him.

Samuel didn’t speak again, just stared at the girl. And in the stillness of that awkward moment, with her brother utterly entranced, Josie knew.

Nothing in her world would be the same again.




Memories are curious things. Some I want to remember, and others . . . well, I simply don’t. Most of my memories—at least the ones from childhood—are curdled into lumps anyway. No amount of stirring will separate them.

But today my family and I are remembering together. Not the twenty-seven years of my life, but the legacy of William Kingston, my great-grandfather. A legend of a man who built a glass kingdom around the world more than seventy years ago, the profits trickling down generations into a significant fortune for his son, Randolph, and daughter-in-law, Marcella, and then eventually my two uncles and myself and Marcella’s other five grandchildren who are still alive.

Whispers filter from the rows behind me, but my eyes are fixed straight ahead on the podium. Marcella Kingston, my grandmother, is standing on the platform near the enormous front door of this renovated library, talking with the mayor of Amsterdam and Paul Epker, the new library director. Above the door, painted in an elegant golden script, is one of her favorite proverbs in Dutch.

Kennis is macht.

Knowledge is power.

Dressed in a tailored black suit and Gucci pumps, the toe of each one adorned with a crystal bow, Marcella exudes the perfect mix of elegance and dignity— a gracious hostess and powerful business leader—as she waits for the ceremony to begin. Her sons don’t always like what she says, but they respect her. As does every vice president employed by the Kingston Corporation and a multitude of government officials across party lines.

Since no one is speaking to me, I twirl one of my strappy heels in circles, trying to pretend I’m running barefoot across a sandy beach back home, the golden retriever I had as a girl splashing in the waves beside me. Wishing I could breathe in the salty breeze on the shores of North Carolina, where I was born.

In a blink, that lump of memory is gone.

Sawdust, that’s what I smell now, along with musty leather and expensive fragrances worn by those seated in the rows behind me.

It’s Remembrance Day in the Netherlands, the Dutch honoring all the people they lost during World War II. My family is here to celebrate the grand opening of Kingston Bibliotheek, a research library in Amsterdam for those who want to remember by studying European history, business, and culture.

This row house in Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter is centuries old, one of the many elaborate merchant homes built tall and thin like a ladder since Dutch taxes were once based on the width of one’s residence. William Kingston bought it seventy years ago and renovated what had been vandalized during the war, using the space as a home and office when America first launched its European Recovery Program. Eventually he began providing Kingston Windows to people across Europe.

My uncles—Carlton and Will—and five cousins are all quiet now in their chairs, staring at the back of my head as we wait for the ceremony to begin. Or I guess they’re staring. It’s purely speculation on my part since I’m seated in the front row. Alone.

I don’t dare turn around to confirm whether or not they are looking back at me, but if eyes could shoot bullets, I suspect my body would be riddled with holes. And so would every book—forty thousand of them—on the shelves that circle this library and climb two stories above my head.

The Kingston family paid for a restoration of this house during the past year. Or at least, the Kingston Family Foundation financed the restoration. Neither of my uncles wanted the family’s money to fund this library, and they despised the fact that their mother, Marcella, had the audacity to appoint me as director of the foundation.

In the eyes of the law, Marcella can appoint me to serve however she sees fit; but in their eyes, I’m an outsider who weaseled her way into Marcella’s good graces twelve years ago to steal part of their fortune. Nothing I do will convince them that I simply want to be part of the family.

The Kingstons may be broken, but they’re all the family I have left.

I pluck at a thread on my wine-colored wrap dress, both my gloves and dress purchased from a ritzy shop in New York by a woman named Claire, Marcella’s personal assistant for the past thirty-plus years.

Claire has coordinated all the details for this dedication, including what I’m wearing, the precise seat where I’m sitting, and who will attend the luncheon that follows, but Claire is nowhere in sight now. She probably snuck into a reading room to chug down one of the energy shots stashed away in her leather briefcase beside her iPad, medications for Marcella, and who knows what else. I don’t need a jolt of caffeine to wake up. Adrenaline has been shooting through every nerve in my body since I walked into this room, like a surge of electricity through faulty wiring.

Red lights glow from video cameras focused on the podium, prepared to record every detail this morning so Marcella’s publicist can distribute the footage online and to news outlets around the world. Will and Carlton and their children and all the significant others will smile politely for the cameras after the ceremony, but this afternoon all hell will break loose behind closed doors. The Kingstons are rapidly losing their fortune, and while they blame some of this loss on me, they keep it a secret from the rest of the world.

“Why is she here?” one of my cousins—Austin, I think—whispers from somewhere behind me, as if I can’t hear him.

I never felt much like an outsider until, ironically, a caseworker found my mother’s family in New York.

Clutching the ivory handbag in my lap, I wait for a response. Perhaps this time one of my uncles will actually stand up for me.

“Marcella wants her to participate in all the family functions,” my uncle Will—a senator from New York—says.

“But Ava’s not really family—”

I strain my good ear, trying to hear what else they say, but the Dutch official is introducing Marcella now, prattling on about her achievements and the esteemed Kingston Family Foundation that finances good work around the world. Then he begins extolling William’s achievements.

As valuable minutes slip by, even Marcella starts to become agitated. I can always tell by the way her lips press closer together, shooting tiny lines up her cheeks that her dermatologist hasn’t been able to laser away. Laugh lines, most people call them, except Marcella Kingston never laughs. These lines are more like the trail of a shooting star about to explode.

Marcella stands before the man finishes his intro, inching gingerly toward him until he relinquishes the podium. Smiling graciously, she welcomes the small crowd and begins to honor the legacy of William Kingston—her father-in-law—for them and the cameras. My lips are set in a semipermanent smile, and I nod periodically as if I haven’t heard this speech a hundred times.

Glancing up, I scan the balconies on three upper floors for Claire, but she seems to be gone. Wrought iron railings cage in the balconies, and a trio of ornate windows filter light into the library. Between the shelves of books is an impressive array of Dutch art, some of it recovered from an old mine after the war.

My phone blinks, and I glance down at the screen, thinking Claire is sending me another text, telling me to fix the tie on my dress or smooth my hair.

Are they all glaring at you?

I almost laugh out loud at my best friend’s message. While I guard the details of my life like a Doberman, Victoria can talk about almost anything without blushing. Victoria-can’t-keep-a-secret, I started calling her when we were thirteen and she told me that Brian Webster was going to ask me to our seventh-grade dance. She hadn’t meant to ruin his plans—or my surprise. She just didn’t believe in secrets.

Now I just call her Vi, and I love her for allowing me to be just who God made me to be.

My handbag partially covering my phone, my eyes focused back on Marcella, I type out a text that I hope is coherent.

I’m not giving them the pleasure of turning around.

Vi texts again. Class is ranked solely in one’s heart and mind.

Brilliant. Where did you hear that?

From a deep wellspring of wisdom.

I glance up at Marcella before looking back at my phone. Your yoga instructor?

A fortune cookie.

A laugh escapes my lips this time, and I try to cover it with a cough.

True class . . . I tuck my cell into my handbag before she replies again, lest I really do ruin the ceremony.

“My father-in-law partnered with the Dutch people after the Second World War,” Marcella says. “He built businesses specifically in the interest of providing jobs, and his investments began to multiply. He was committed to working alongside the citizens of this great country as they recovered from the war, and his selflessness helped educate and provide for people across Europe.”

I never met my great-grandfather, but I’ve memorized his carefully choreographed legacy. William and Abigail Kingston had one son, Randolph, in 1938. William’s business partner was a German man named Peter Ziegler, who had one daughter, Marcella, two years after Randolph was born.

According to Marcella, Peter and William had schemed since the birth of their two children to seal the Kingston-Ziegler business partnership through Randolph and Marcella. Their marriage took place on June 12, 1965, on the lawn of the Kingston estate in New York.

Randolph died more than a decade ago, not long after I arrived in New York. He and Marcella had been married forty-five years, birthing two boys and adopting my mom when she was a baby.

William lived until he was eighty-two and managed to acquire enough money to catapult his family into the top one percent before his death. A coveted position, but I’m not convinced that it’s an enviable one for his descendants. Before he died, he set up a foundation to give away a percentage of his fortune to educate and provide good jobs for those who wanted to work. None of his heirs except Marcella seemed to be pleased about giving money away.

My grandmother’s eyes skirt over me as she speaks, settling on the row behind me. My mom was the hardest working person I’ve ever known—helping care for our little family by working as a server, administrative assistant at our church, and part-time gardener. A landscape artist really, creating masterpieces in North Carolina’s sandy soil.

Sadly, Marcella’s sons haven’t seemed to embrace the same work ethic as their sister . . . or their grandfather.

“William Kingston invested in people first,” Marcella says, quoting the familiar Kingston business creed passed down through the generations. “And these people became masters of their craft. They changed the world with their innovation and ability to make it a better place.”

William sought knowledge from the time he was a child, I’ve been told, growing up as a banker’s son in New Jersey, throughout his years at Cambridge, and then during the Great Depression, when he began snatching up stock at rock-bottom prices, the return on his investments later rivaling the worth of men like Joe Kennedy and Howard Hughes.

No one’s past is perfect, but I’ve yet to hear anyone mention any major glitches in our family’s journey.

“Through this library, we envision a continued return on William’s investment in people and knowledge so generations after us will learn from the past as they fight against evil and pour their lives into all that is good.”

Marcella’s gaze travels down the row of her grandchildren and several of their spouses as she speaks about how William planted seed money in the Netherlands and around the world to inspire innovation and help others grow.

And now the Kingston legacy will continue on in this library.

Claire appears on the stage with a pair of giant scissors, and Marcella turns toward the white ribbon strung across the library’s front door. A camera flashes behind me, capturing this moment, and after Marcella clips through the ribbon, I reach for my purse.

I should keep my gaze forward—I know this—but my eyes seem to act of their own accord. Both uncles are sitting right behind me, along with Will’s third wife and Carlton’s current girlfriend. Lined up to their left are the cousins who talk plenty about me but refuse to speak directly to my face.

I want them to like me, but nothing I can do, besides running away like my mother, will make them happy. According to Marcella, I don’t need their friendship or their money—each cousin has a trust fund with their name on it. While none of the family dares question Marcella, they hate me for every dollar she’s invested in me and my education.

Much of the family, it seems, is simply waiting for Marcella to die so they can begin living their lives. But Marcella, at seventy-nine years old, isn’t planning to die anytime soon. And this woman plans everything.

As the crowd disperses, I walk up the platform steps and kiss Marcella carefully on the cheek so I won’t leave an imprint on her coating of powder. She directs me to Paul Epker.

“This is my granddaughter Ava Drake.” She scoots me toward him with a nudge on my back. “She helps me with research for the foundation.”

Research is my specialty, along with the gut instinct my mom once said was a gift.

“It’s very nice to meet you.” He picks a piece of lint off one of the stripes on his suit jacket. “I hope you will do some of your research right here.”

As Marcella turns to speak to someone else, I glance up again at the thousands of books in this space, most of them written ages ago. “All my research is about contemporary organizations.”

“The past often has a way of creeping into our present,” Paul says, the word way sounding like “vay,” and I stare at him, surprised, wondering if he somehow managed to uncover part of my story, pre–Kingston family.

But he just smiles kindly at me, waiting for me to speak.

“Do you have anything about the Kingston family history on your shelves?”

“I’ve ordered several books with information about William Kingston and Peter Ziegler.” He looks up at the loft. “I will find one for you.”

“Thank you.” The history I know about the Kingston family is an oral one from Marcella and a biography about William that I borrowed from her personal library.

“Did you attend Yale like your grandmother?” he asks.

“No, I went to—”

Marcella steps back into our conversation, interrupting me. “She attended a prestigious university in North Carolina.”

Paul smiles again; whether it’s genuine or not, I wouldn’t know. Years ago, before high school, when someone smiled at me, it usually meant they were being friendly, no strings attached, because I had nothing of value to offer. Now I’m never certain if someone actually enjoys my company or if they see dollar signs floating in some kind of aura above my head.

Strange how my own insecurities swell in the face of wealth while I’d bloomed just fine growing up on a much-lower economic plane.

Paul says something else, but with the pattering of voices, I can’t make out the words.

I turn my head. “I’m sorry?”

“Which university?”

“It was called—”

“Thank you for your work today,” Marcella says to him. “It was exactly as I’d envisioned.”

When she directs me off the platform, I flash an apologetic smile, but Paul doesn’t seem frustrated at our abrupt departure. When you manage millions, I’ve discovered, people are much more likely to forgive any trespass. I could stomp all over certain individuals with my spiked heels, and they’d say I missed a spot.

Marcella doesn’t want Paul, or anyone, to know that I attended a state school, as if that would somehow taint the facade that she’s invented for me. All of my cousins were educated in the halls of the Ivy League, but after three years at a private high school in Connecticut, I wanted nothing to do with the invasive destruction of ivy, no matter how Marcella tried to convince me otherwise. I’d insisted on getting both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business back home.

The front door is propped open in front of us, and after Marcella steps outside, Claire leans down toward my right ear so I can hear. “A storm is brewing.”

The sky has indeed darkened, but that’s not the storm she’s referring to. It’s the somber faces glaring back at us.

“Lunch is scheduled for noon,” Claire says, “at a place called Merkelbach. I’ve reserved the entire place in case of . . .”

I sigh. “Thunder.”

“And lightning.” She nudges me, nodding that someone is behind us, probably trying to talk with me. I turn to see Paul Epker, a book in his hand.

Darkest Before Dawn—the title is stamped in gold foil on the dark-green cover.

“This book mentions both of your great-grandfathers.”

I tuck it under my arm, thanking him for the loan.

“Mrs. Kingston asked me to order another book that, according to the catalog description, talks more specifically about the Kingstons’ business before World War II. I could only find one copy still in existence, so it’s taken a bit of finagling . . .”

“Will you let me know when it arrives?”

He nods. “I’ll overnight it to you.”

Water splashes from the faucet of sky outside, a raindrop sliding across my bare shoulder and streaming down my arm. More drops follow at a rapid pace, and Claire snaps open the leather case, shooting up an umbrella in record time to rescue Marcella from disaster.

As black umbrellas mushroom across the sidewalk, I reach into my purse and pull out my compact one, strewn with butterflies. Then I spring it open above my head.

“I’ll meet you at the restaurant,” I tell Marcella and Claire, wanting a few minutes to explore on my own before I face the angry tribe.

Claire glances up. “But the rain?”

“A little water won’t hurt me.”

Marcella scans the crowd one more time, and I see something new in her eyes, a look that passes so quickly that I must be mistaken because Marcella never looks scared.

“You’d better ride to lunch with Claire,” she says.

I almost balk, but if Marcella is concerned . . .

I follow Claire to a waiting car near the sidewalk, and I wonder why everything of use in the Kingston family must be black. Almost as if we’re all supposed to live our lives in mourning.

Some nights I curl up on my bed, mourning the loss of those I’ve loved, but no one has told me why this family—my family—is grieving.





“Dinner, Jozefien, that’s all I ask.” Klaas dug his hands into the pockets of his trousers, wagging his head as if she’d wounded him with her refusal. “I’ll take you to Café Royale.”

Schutterijweg 265.

Each letter, number, clicked like a typewriter key in her brain, making an imprint before she forgot the address.

“I can’t,” Josie said, trying to focus on the man standing beside her, the woven handle of the basket seeming to burn her hand. “At least, not tomorrow night.”

It seemed innocent enough, this basket. A bouquet of purple and orange tulips, two glass jars, and a lining of gingham napkins. But her brother had hidden an envelope in the bottom, under the gingham. And no one, including Klaas, could find out what she was delivering to Maastricht tomorrow.

Schutterijweg 265.

Klaas fingered the tulip petals. “Orange is supposed to be banned.”

“Fortunately no one told the flowers.”

Klaas leaned against a marble column of the expansive lobby, his blond hair combed neatly back, the knot of his plum-colored tie bunched up above his waistcoat. He wrapped his arms across the breast of his gray-striped coat. “What’s more important than dinner?”

“I’m helping Keet with her children.”

His eyebrows arched up, his handsome blue eyes studying her. “She only has two kinderen.”

“She’s had another since you visited,” Josie said. “And now there’s a fourth on the way.”

An older couple scooted past them, and the yellow stars stitched to their clothing seemed to glimmer in the chandelier light and ripple across the long marble countertop in the lobby, trying to penetrate the milky glass that separated the bank tellers and managers from their Jewish patrons. The woman clutched the man’s arm with one hand and the other was gripped around the strap of a fashionable shoulder bag. He carried a tan attaché case that, Josie assumed, was filled with money and jewelry and perhaps the title to their house. Everything valuable they owned.

The bank of Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co. had been formed almost a hundred years ago by two Jewish men and had been well-respected until the occupation. This new branch, called Liro by Amsterdammers, was designed by the Germans to secure all the valuables of Dutch Jewry. The securing of property became mandatory with yet another regulation by occupiers who’d vehemently promised they wouldn’t persecute the Jewish people in Holland.

Then again, the Germans had promised they would never bomb the Dutch, hours before they crushed the grand city of Rotterdam into dust. Now Holland was being assaulted from inside and out. An onslaught of German soldiers, Gestapo, local police, and NSB—Dutch Nazis—who were all implementing what Hitler demanded of them.

Josie switched the basket to her other hand. “Samuel will go to dinner with you tomorrow.”

He eyed the basket. “Did he bring you another gift?”

“Jam.” She lifted the flowers to show him the two amber-colored jars. “Golden raspberry from home.”

She was fairly certain that her brother had purchased it at the market—he hadn’t been back to Giethoorn in weeks—but Samuel often called her from the bank these days, saying he had a gift from home. Better, he’d once told her, for them to make their exchanges in public than attempt to do so in secret.

Klaas reached for one of the jars, and she held her breath as he examined it, hoping he wouldn’t find the envelope.

Schutterijweg 265.

She couldn’t allow him to blur a single one of these letters or numbers in her mind. The smallest of details meant life or death in their work.

Klaas placed the jar back onto the napkin, and she swung the basket casually to her side. “How’s Sylvia?”

“Sylvia and I are no longer together.” He gave her that sly smile he liked to use when they were children. “She said I was much too interested in someone else.”

Josie hugged the basket to her chest, not certain how to reply. Klaas had never treated her as anything more than Samuel’s little sister. Someone he had to tolerate even when she annoyed him, a responsibility she’d taken quite seriously until Eliese arrived in Giethoorn.

They were all grown up now, Eliese safe in England while Josie, Samuel, and Klaas had moved to Amsterdam. It was her first year in the city, studying at the Reformed Teacher Training College, but Samuel had worked for several years at the Holland Trade Bank before transferring to Liro, and Klaas was employed at an architectural firm. Unlike her, Klaas managed to pretend that nothing in Holland had changed in the past two years, that their future was as promising as it had ever been.

He glanced at his watch. “I must return to the office or my boss might decide to lock the door.” He tweaked her chin like she was a child again and they were skating along the canals back home. “I wish I could go back to Maastricht with you.”

“Perhaps one day . . .”

“Perhaps.” He smiled again before he left.

Josie glanced at the partially caged window where her brother sat, helping another Jewish customer entrust his worldly goods into the care of the regime. A roofbank—that’s what this new branch of the respected institution was called. A pirate ship ready to plunder. The Nazis never planned to return anything they stole, but her brother kept pretending that all the gold and diamonds and certificates of stock were simply being stored here.

If only Samuel could have remained at the Holland Trade Bank with Eliese’s father and their investors. Instead, the occupiers shuttered the bank’s door months ago because of Mr. Linden’s Jewish heritage. Last she had heard, Eliese’s father was cooperating with the Germans.

The rain had stopped, but Josie still tied her red scarf under her chin, wishing it were a brilliant orange. Klaas didn’t think she knew much, but she was well aware of the ban on her favorite color.

In the early weeks of the occupation, she had worn her orange sweater—the color of Dutch royalty—to classes each day until Dr. van Hulst, the headmaster at her college, quietly pulled her aside and handed her a blue cardigan, saying there were much more productive ways for her to rebel against the unwelcome guests who’d taken up residence in their city.

She’d found a bracelet in the pocket of that cardigan, and she’d worn it every day since, hiding the silver links and orange lion under her sleeve.

A row of green-uniformed guards stood outside the rain-soaked windows; their honey-brown hair reminded her of the yellow pollen produced from ragweed, infiltrating every inch of this bank’s plaza. She rushed out past them, toward the bike rack, before someone stopped to search the contents of her basket more thoroughly than Klaas had done.

The road followed the river back toward the college, located at the edge of Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter. The handle of the basket looped over one arm, the glass jars jostled as she bumped along the cobbles, trying to avoid the puddles. On a normal day, she would slow down to protect her wares, but today she wanted to deliver this envelope back to the safety of her room.

In a year, she hoped she would be ready to teach on her own. In a year . . . if the Allied troops prevailed and the Jewish children in their country were once again allowed to attend school.

She hated this feeling of being caught in the enemy’s web. Stuck. Of only being a courier for her brother with letters he said were making a difference, yet she didn’t know if they were doing anything at all. People whispered about resisting this enemy, as her country had done so long ago with Spain, but they needed—she needed—to do more.

Someone cried out nearby, and her heels dropped to the ground. It was a little girl, standing on the stoop of one of the row houses, a stuffed bunny clutched to her chest.

Josie pedaled beside the parked automobiles in the alley and leaned her bicycle against the stoop. In the windows she could see faces of other people, watching the child, but no one came outside to help.

She rushed up three steps with her basket and knelt beside the girl, her heart sinking when she saw the yellow star on her cardigan. She must be at least seven. The younger children weren’t set apart by the stars.

“What’s wrong?” Josie spoke quietly lest she frighten the child even more.

“They’re taking us away.”

“Who is taking you away?” she asked.

The girl pointed toward a blue automobile that waited at the opposite end of the narrow lane, a capped driver inside. “The police.”

Something rumbled inside the house, thunder echoing between the walls, the sound of heavy boots pounding down the steps.

Would this girl’s parents want Josie to steal her away before the police did? Surely one of the neighbors would open up their door if she knocked, hide the girl inside.

But when Josie reached out her arm to take the girl’s hand, she shrieked in terror. A woman rushed out the door and held her close, glaring as if Josie were the one threatening their family.

Two Dutch policemen stomped out behind her, grim shadows in their black shirts and boots like the fabled Ossaert, a clawed monster who searched for innocent victims in the night. The agents were gripping the arms of a disheveled man wearing a tailored suit coat with a torn star and a swollen bump on his head.

Had they beaten this poor man in front of his wife?

“What are you doing?” Josie demanded.

The sergeant’s gray eyes, dual blades, pierced through her. She took a deep breath, the blaze of her anger dying down into embers of fear.

“Are you a neighbor?” He scrutinized her skirt and jacket as if searching for a star.

She shook her head. “I was worried about the girl.”

“You needn’t worry,” he said stiffly. “We’re relocating her and her parents to a safer place.”

The terror in the girl’s face shredded Josie’s heart. If only she could still steal her away . . .

“Please let the woman take her!” the father pleaded.

“Stilte!” the sergeant barked.


The second policeman, the one who refused to look at Josie, shoved the father toward the car. The look in the mother’s eyes had changed, pleading now for Josie to help.

“Please . . . ,” Josie begged the sergeant.

He grasped Josie’s wrist, and the teeth of the orange lion bored into her skin. If he pushed back her sleeve and saw the bracelet, he’d arrest her right there.

Then again, he might arrest her anyway.

“I didn’t realize you were taking her to safety,” she said, relenting under the pain. And she hated herself for letting him bully her, cowering while this family was dragged away.

“Go home, Fräulein.” He pointed. “Is that your bicycle?”

She reached for the handlebars. “It is.”

Several people had stopped along the sidewalk, gazing at the family as if they were a parade of animals being led to the Artis Royal Zoo.

“What do you have in your basket?” He swept it out of her hands and threw her tulips on the wet sidewalk, the purple and orange petals wilting in the puddled raindrops.

“Diederik!” he called before tossing a jar of jam. The other officer tried to catch it, but the glass shattered against the cobblestone, spraying shards and raspberries across the pavers. The sergeant lifted the second jar, studying it as Klaas had done earlier. Then he turned over her basket, and the two cloth napkins slipped to the ground, red-and-white checkers bleeding on the ground.

She held her breath, waiting for the envelope to fall out, but no envelope appeared.

Had Samuel forgotten to hide it in the basket?

The sergeant ground his heel into the orange flower petals before turning to leave.

She slid down to the ground, wrapping her arms around her knees. Her entire body was trembling. She reached for the crushed flowers first, as if she could somehow recover their beauty, as if the brilliant color of their petals could soak up the darkness suffocating her.

As if the flowers could help her breathe again.

Then she picked up the napkins.

The bottom napkin felt stiff. Someone had stitched the fabric of two napkins together, concealing what must be Samuel’s envelope.

Schutterijweg 265.

The face of the little girl haunted her as she clutched the napkin to her chest, tears welling in her eyes. She’d deliver this message to Maastricht for this girl and her parents and all who were being tormented by the Nazis.

An elderly gentleman seemed to appear out of nowhere, wearing a black raincoat and hat.

She stood beside him. “Do you know this family?”

“As well as any of us can know each other these days.”

“Do you know where the police are taking them?”

“To one of the camps, I fear.”

“What happens at the camps?” she asked.

He took a step away as if he’d already stayed too long. “None of us know for certain.”

She glanced back toward the end of the alley. “What are their names?”

“Van Gelder,” he said. “Werner, Hanneke, and Esther van Gelder.”

“I only wanted to help,” she whispered.

“It’s too late to help them. Too late for any of us now.”