The Upright Heart chronicles the return from Brooklyn of a Jewish man, Wolf, to his native Poland soon after World War II. He is haunted by the memory of his Catholic lover, Olga, whom he abandoned to marry a woman of his own faith and start a new life in America, and who perished sheltering the parents and younger sister he left behind. Harassed on the streets of postwar Poland, Wolf is watched over by the spirits of those who died during and after the war but have yet to let go. His story is woven together with those of others, living and dead, Catholic and Jew, including the deceased students of a school for girls, a battalion of fallen German soldiers, and an orphan boy who wanders the streets of Krakow, believing in a magic pill he has conjured up as a way to survive. Set amid the ruins of the Holocaust and the Nazis' total war, this haunting novel is at once a page-turning drama and a meditation on what it means to be human, part of a community, alive. The Upright Heart's dreamlike qualities and fluent lyricism draw the reader toward a consecrated realm, while its narrative force guides the story into the present, where survivors and their children, beset by the devastations of the past, struggle alongside the dead to perceive and appreciate the beauty of that which remains and that which might yet be.
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