Book Review: The One Man by Andrew Gross
Origin: Browsing goodreads
Genre: Historical fiction, Suspense/Thriller
“It was for this reason that man was first created as one person, to teach you that anyone who destroys a life is considered by Scripture to have destroyed an entire world; and any who saves a life is as if he saved an entire world.”
Summary: In the throes of the German-occupation of Europe, Polish physicist Alfred Mendl, along with his family, are given forged passports by the U.S. government in an effort to ship him to the states immediately, given his very valuable knowledge of a certain weapon that is believed to have the power to end the war. Right when they thought they would be escaping Germany, their faulty passports were torn to shreds, and the Nazis delivered the Mendl family to Auschwitz. At the gates, the Nazis destroyed all tangible evidence of a lifetime’s worth of research.
In the camp, Mendl meets a teenage prodigy, Leo, who embodies the phrase “mind like a steel trap.” The professor takes this gifted boy under his wing and teaches him everything he knows about his research, without giving any details as to what it is for. Mendl insists that this information will be sought after, and he is afraid that he himself may not live to share it.
Meanwhile, an immigrant named Nathan Blum who escaped the Polish ghetto by sheer luck during the German occupation, had landed himself behind a desk at a Washington D.C. Intelligence office. Not long after he reached safety on U.S. soil was he hand-picked by the government to propose a suicide mission to recover “the one man” who is believed to be encamped at Auschwitz. With little to go on other than a photo of his captive, religion guides him to believe this is something he is supposed to do.
Review: This WWII novel is unlike any historical-fiction novel you are like to come across. It is true, constant suspense, and I can honestly say that I was surprised by the twist-ending, which doesn’t happen often! What makes this story unique is that it was loosely based on true events, but the story is rather farfetched. Don’t pick this novel up if you’re looking for the gory details of what went on behind those barbed-wire gates of Auschwitz, because while there are minor details that will stimulate your PTSD, this story is focused on the information inside the mind of a physicist, and how the U.S. can possibly obtain it.
The characters were loveable. I enjoyed almost every “side-story,” especially that of the young Leo. He brought youth and naivety to the book, which was refreshing because it is quite harrowing from all points of the story.
If you are a fan of the WWII era stories, I would recommend this one as something “different” but still entertaining to read.