Margot, by Jillian Cantor. Riverhead Books, 2013.
So, what would have happened if Anne Frank's sister had survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and come to America?
This first-person tale explores this outcome. The premise is that in the Annex, a romantic relationship grew between Margot Frank and Peter. They conspired to take new names and meet in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, after the war, marry, and raise a family. Margot is now Margie Franklin. She is passing as a Gentile legal secretary, hiding her identity and her prison camp tattoo under a cardigan sweater, and calling directory assistance regularly to search for any sign of Peter.
Like Life of Pi, Before I Go To Sleep, and The Double Bind, the borders between fantasy and reality blur and shift. In this case, layers of the Holocaust experience are revealed little by little, as the author probes the feelings, memories (repressed and not,) attitudes of Philadelphians towards Jews, and attitudes of American Jews towards European Jews. The relationship between Margie and Anne is brought into sharp focus when the film Diary of Anne Frank is released, triggering guilty memories surrounding Margo's escape from the prison camp.
It's clear from the outset that this is pure fiction, but it provides Cantor an opportunity to understand her culture, and brings attention to the motivation of some Jewish people to put that part of their lives behind them in America, the Land of the Free.