Thursday 7 September 2023

#Blogtour Counting Lost Stars by Kim Van Alkemade

It's a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour Counting Lost Stars by Kim van Alkemade.

About the Author

Kim van Alkemade is the New York Times bestselling author of the historical novels Orphan #8 and Bachelor Girl. Born in Manhattan, she grew up in New Jersey and went to college in Wisconsin, where she earned a Ph.D. in English. For many years, she was a professor at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. Now a full-time writer, she resides in Saratoga Springs, New York, with her partner, their two rescue dogs, and three feisty backyard chickens.

About the book

New York Times bestselling author of Orphan #8, Kim van Alkemade returns with a gripping and poignant historical saga in which an unmarried college student who’s given up her baby for adoption helps a Dutch Holocaust survivor search for his lost mother. 

1960, New York City: College student Rita Klein is a pioneering woman in the new field of computer programming—until she unexpectedly becomes pregnant. At the Hudson Home for Unwed Mothers, social workers pressure her into surrendering her baby for adoption. Rita is struggling to get on with her life when she meets Jacob Nassy, a charming yet troubled man from the Netherlands who is traumatized by his childhood experience of being separated from his mother during the Holocaust. When Rita learns that Hitler’s Final Solution was organized using Hollerith punch-card computers, she sets out to find the answers that will help Jacob heal. 

1941, The Hague: Cornelia Vogel is working as a punch-card operator at the Ministry of Information when a census of Holland’s population is ordered by the Germans. After the Ministry acquires a Hollerith computer made in America, Cornelia is tasked with translating its instructions from English into Dutch. She seeks help from her fascinating Jewish neighbour, Leah Blom, an unconventional young woman whose mother was born in New York. When Cornelia learns the census is being used to persecute Holland’s Jews, she risks everything to help Leah escape.

After Rita uncovers a connection between Cornelia Vogel and Jacob’s mother, long-buried secrets come to light. Will shocking revelations tear them apart, or will learning the truth about the past enable Rita and Jacob to face the future together?


The story switches between Rita and her numbness at the rejection she is experiencing and the loss, after being forced to give birth and then hand the baby over to strangers. In another timeline a few decades earlier we meet Cornelia, who is drawn into the machination of data collection and its deadly impact on the Jewish population. How do the two lives become connected when both women live in different times and countries, what do they have in common?

One question rears its head quite often, when discussing the Holocaust. People ask why is this particular atrocity worse than other genocides ect. Not that there should be any comparisons drawn when it comes to the murder of innocent people - the question is rather why the Holocaust stands out as a constant reminder of what humans are capable of doing to their fellow humans. My answer is always: the level of planning, the profit margin in a constant comparison to the end goal, the machinery of vast collaboration and the minutiae of the execution of said plans.

The author captures exactly that element of the Holocaust, which I find one of the most inhumane facts of its entirety. The documentation, the structure and evidence of their crimes that they didn't manage to destroy, is quite frankly horrifying. The Hollerith machines were used to collect and process data, specifically in WW2 to collect Census data, which was used to identify and find their victims. Then further used to trace, track in camps - evidenced in certain camps, assumed in others.

I enjoyed the way the author brought characters with the generational trauma of the Holocaust into the story and combined it with characters living with the trauma of forced birth, which is a topic that has once again become a reality for many women in the 21st century. The grandchildren of the millions of children taken from unmarried girls and women, before contraception and abortion were legal legislative options, are now returning to the dark ages of control over women.

It's an excellent read and also an informative one from an historical perspective. The story never loses sight of the tragedy, regardless of whether it is on a personal level or on a global level. The two levels inevitably become the tie that binds.

Buy Counting Lost Stars at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏:  WmMorrowPB; pub date 31 Aug. 2023. Buy at Amazon com.

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