Counting Lost Stars: A Novel (Paperback)
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 neighbor, 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?
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.
"Powerful and haunting, Counting Lost Stars is historical fiction at its finest. Brilliantly connecting two time lines, Van Alkemade explores a little-known aspect of Nazi depravity in using techonology to further its murderous aims, a technology that computer programmer Rita Klein years later will ultimately turn to redemptive and life-changing use. Counting Lost Stars offers moments of connection and reconnection that will leave the reader breathless, and a much-needed portrayal of humanity at its finest, and most selfless, to inspire us all." — Natalie Jenner, Internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls
"Two separate, poignant love stories that evolve into extraordinary tales of sacrifice and survival, heartbreak and hope. Written by a master storyteller through gorgeous prose. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough!"
— Genevieve Graham, USA Today Bestselling Author of The Forgotten Home Child
A page turner that kept me staying up late and rising early to find out what happened next, this is a cautionary tale of the dangers of data collection in the hands of a despotic government that thrives on hate and divisiveness. The novel is a call to us to reconsider the scope and implication of our running headlong into every technological advance as the narrative subtly reminds us of the possible repercussions of these new capabilities. Kim van Alkemade is a masterful storyteller in the best sense of the word. — Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa, author of A Woman of Endurance and Daughters of the Stone
I loved this book. — Armando Lucas Correa, author of The Night Travelers
"A sad and moving story that covers forced adoption, Nazi atrocities, and finding love in adverse situations. The writing is magnificent and pulls the reader intimately into the story, hoping for a good ending but knowing it to be unlikely." — Booklist
“Orphan #8 peers unflinchingly into a little-known chapter of America’s history, an orphanage where innocent children are experimented upon in the name of science. With rare honesty and emotional courage, Kim van Alkemade tackles some of the largest ethical questions of our time. Yet the sense of moral outrage that permeates this novel is tempered by an understanding that all our paths are a complicated series of missteps. Orphan # 8 will leave you breathless, eager to turn each page, until you reach its dramatic and utterly beautiful ending.” — Dolen Perkins Valdez, author of Balm on Orphan #8
“Kim van Alkemade has moxie. In her provocative novel, family is saturated with betrayal, care is interrupted by ambition and desire, and the past is intimately explored, invoking the abandoned child in all of us. Orphan # 8 brims with complicated passions and pitch-perfect historical details. A riveting, memorable debut.” — Catherine Zobal Dent, author of Unfinished Stories of Girls on Orphan #8