Counting Lost Stars: A Novel
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?
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Counting Lost Stars includes questions intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
"Powerful and haunting, Counting Lost Stars is historical fiction at its finest...a much-needed portrayal of humanity at its 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. 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, Internationally bestselling author of The German Girl and The Night Travelers
"Kim van Alkemade is herself a hero. In her illuminating book, stars are counted and stars are lost. But they are also immortalized and redeemed."
— Sonia Taitz, The Jewish Book Council