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Lowry doesn't waste a word in NUMBER THE STARS, starting with Annemarie and Ellen's frightening run-in with German soldiers in the opening chapter. In quick strokes, Lowry establishes the setting and characters and foreshadows Annemarie's subsequent encounters with soldiers, each of which increases the tension. The symbol of stars weaves in and out: When the crowd of escaping Jews gathers, they are comforted with the words of Psalm 147: "O praise the Lord ... he who numbers the stars one by one." "How can anyone number the stars?" Annemarie wonders.
But she is one of the brave Danes who save their Jewish neighbors, one by one. The ending, in which Annemarie vows to wear Ellen's Star of David necklace till her friend returns, would be hokey in the hands of a lesser writer; instead, it leaves a lump in the throat. So does the Afterword: Crafted as carefully as the novel, it makes the point that these fictional characters represent real people whose idealism was a gift to the world.
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