"JOOP: A NOVEL OF ANNE FRANK," by Richard Lourie, Thomas Dunne Books, 182 pages, $13.95 (softbound)
Of the 6 million Jews who were killed by the Nazis in World War II, Anne Frank is perhaps the most famous. Little did the aspiring young writer know that her diary would become one of the most read books in the world.
While the fate of Anne, her family and the others who were in hiding with them is well-known, the identity of their betrayer has never been discovered. Author Richard Lourie offers a fictional account of what might have happened in "Joop: A Novel of Anne Frank."
Joop, an old man living in present-day Amsterdam, is surprised by a visit from his estranged younger brother, who moved to America shortly after the end of World War II with their mother.
During their visit, Joop offers a surprise of his own — he says he knows who betrayed the Frank family to the Nazis. And the news hits close to home.
Joop recounts life during the Nazi occupation. He tells how things weren't so bad at first — their uncle joined the Dutch Nazis and the Germans "couldn't be nicer." But slowly things worsen. The war drags on and food becomes more expensive and then almost impossible to obtain.
Among Joop's greatest desires was to find favor with his parents, his father in particular. When his father becomes ill and can no longer work, it falls to Joop, who is a young teenager, to provide for the family.
After trying a number of schemes, Joop finds a way to feed his family. Seeing no other options, Joop makes a fateful decision. And in doing so, he unwittingly changes the fate of his family and the lives of millions of people living and yet to be born.
"Joop," which was published in hardcover in 2007 as "A Hatred for Tulips," is not so much about Anne Frank as it is about a family's struggle to survive in Amsterdam during the 1940s. It's a study in how, when faced with the death of a loved one, rules of society can slowly slip out the window.
"Joop" is not necessarily a young adult book, but it reads like one — easy, clear and short at 182 pages, which makes it a good read for older teens and adults alike. Lourie's simple but distinctive prose suits his protagonist as he grows from innocent youth to jaded adult, making Joop a sympathetic and intriguing character.
Most importantly, Lourie makes the reader think. In his world things are not in black and white. The reader is forced into an uncomfortable situation and asked, "What would you do?"