________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 1. . . .September 4, 2015


Stones On a Grave. (Secrets).

Kathy Kacer.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2015.
213 pp., trade pbk., pdf & epub, $14.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0659-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0660-3 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0661-0 (epub). A “Secrets” Boxed Set is available for $79.95. ISBN 978-1-4598-1082-2

Grades 8-12 / Ages 13-17.

Review by Amy Trepanier.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



“You’re no longer a child, Sara and you should have left here when you turned eighteen. I didn’t insist on it then, but now, with everything that’s happened, it’s time for you to make your way out into the world on your own.”

Mrs. Hazelton had jumped the gun and said the very words that Sara was about to blurt out.

“I’ve been keeping some things safe,” continued Mrs. Hazelton, “until it was the right time to you and the others. I didn’t think it would happen so quickly. But with the fire and all...”

She took a deep breath and pushed the envelope across the desk to Sara. “We’ve never talked about where you came from and the circumstances of your birth. I think it’s time you knew.”


Sara Barry has known no home outside the orphanage in which she grew up in the small town of Hope, and no family beyond her fellow orphans and housemother. She knows nothing of her lineage beyond the simple fact that she is Jewish, a conclusion she draws from her mysterious ownership of a Star of David pendant and a medical certificate in her name issued by a German doctor shortly after her birth.

      Sara’s life changes dramatically after a devastating fire destroys the orphanage. As one of the eldest orphans, she is expected to make her own way in the world, outside the comfort and safety of the only home she has ever known. At the same time, Sara’s curiosity about her past and longing to understand who she is and where she came from continue to mount. Mrs. Hazelton, the orphanage housemother, encourages Sara to take a leap of faith, gather her courage, and make the trek to Germany.

      Sara sets out in search of the doctor who signed the medical certificate that cleared her for travel to the orphanage in Canada while she was still an infant. Upon her arrival in Germany, she is met with clear hostility, with the doctor telling her to leave and numerous local residents slamming doors in her face. Fortunately for Sara, the doctor’s handsome young grandson takes pity on her and assists her in her quest to solve the mystery of her lineage. He accompanies her in her travels and helps her connect with the obviously shell-shocked residents of the village who are still suffering from the fallout of the holocaust.

      Eventually, Sara is able to piece together enough information to determine that she was born to a young woman imprisoned in a concentration camp and that she was the child of an assault on her mother by a Nazi officer. As Sara struggles to assimilate this horrifying discovery into her view of the world, and of herself, she also learns that her mother had wanted, very much, to keep and raise her, but was unable to do so after falling ill and eventually succumbing to a disease contracted in the camp. Sara is deeply comforted by the knowledge that she was not an unwanted child, abandoned at birth. She finds some peace through the act of visiting her mother’s final resting place to leave stones on her grave, an homage to her Jewish roots.

      Stones on a Grave is a deeply moving story about the innate human longing to know where one comes from and about the power of love and forgiveness to overcome any darkness. The plot flows smoothly, and characters are well developed, given the brevity of the novel. This title would make a beneficial addition to a high school curriculum as a supplementary resource to teachings about World War II.

Highly Recommended.

Amy Trepanier is the Teen Services Manager at Red Deer Public Library in Red Deer, AB.

Stones On a Grave. (Secrets).

Kathy Kacer. Narrated by Anne Marie Damman.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2015.
4.45 hours, CD (4 discs) & mp3, $29.95 (CD), $19.95 (mp3).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1090-7 (CD), ISBN 978-1-4598-1091-4 (mp3).

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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