Andrew Gross has written probably the most moving novel that I have read.
To say that it is an emotional roller coaster is the truth, but does not do it the justice it deserves. The book involves a lengthy look at the real horrors of a Nazi concentration camp and the daily struggle of the people trapped there just to somehow survive.
I am a fan of Mr. Gross, and in my opinion this novel is far and away the best work among many good works that he has given us.
In 1944, Alfred Mendl is taken away from his family in Poland, and along with many others is sent to a men’s concentration camp. His notes and papers on his work are taken from him and destroyed. The Nazis have no idea that they confiscated work that only one other person in the world has, and which when combined with work done by other scientists could start a war – or win one.
Nathan Blum, a Polish Jew who has successfully escaped from Poland but was forced to leave his family behind to be slaughtered, has certain requisite qualities that make him the ideal man for a scheme to rescue Mendl from the camp. He is Semitic in appearance, speaks both Polish and German. He is assigned to desk work for the U.S. army in Washington but desperately wants to do something more important for the war effort. The plan to rescue Mendl involves actually breaking into the camp he is at, and bringing him out to be sent to the United States to work with the scientists currently at work attempting to build a nuclear weapon. To be successful there must be an almost impossible combination of events that occur.
There is not one single way to put down the book without finishing it, and the reader arrives at a surprising end literally drained of emotion. Vivid descriptions of the horrors prevalent in the camp cannot fail to stir any reader who has only experienced the Holocaust through reading history. Andrew Gross brings us there and creates an ambience that will stay for quite a while.
8/16 Paul Lane
THE ONE MAN by Andrew Gross. Minotaur Books (August 23, 2016). ISBN 978-1250079503. 432p.