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Publisher's Summary

Based on an unexplored slice of World War II history, Exile Music is the captivating story of a young Jewish girl whose family flees refined and urbane Vienna for safe harbor in the mountains of Bolivia.

As a young girl growing up in Vienna in the 1930s, Orly has an idyllic childhood filled with music. Her father plays the viola in the Philharmonic, her mother is a well-regarded opera singer, her beloved and charismatic older brother holds the neighborhood in his thrall, and most of her eccentric and wonderful extended family live nearby. Only vaguely aware of Hitler's rise or how her Jewish heritage will define her family's identity, Orly spends her days immersed in play with her best friend and upstairs neighbor, Anneliese. Together they dream up vivid and elaborate worlds, where they can escape the growing tensions around them. 

But in 1938, Orly's peaceful life is shattered when the Germans arrive. Her older brother flees Vienna first, and soon Orly, her father, and her mother procure refugee visas for La Paz, a city high up in the Bolivian Andes. Even as the number of Jewish refugees in the small community grows, her family is haunted by the music that can no longer be their livelihood, and by the family and friends they left behind. While Orly and her father find their footing in the mountains, Orly's mother grows even more distant, harboring a secret that could put their family at risk again. Years pass, the war ends, and Orly must decide: Is the love and adventure she has found in La Paz what defines home, or is the pull of her past in Europe - and the piece of her heart she left with Anneliese - too strong to ignore?

©2020 Jennifer Steil (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Gorgeous and lyrical, Exile Music captures the delicate rhythm of one girl's coming of age while driven by war and exile. Heart-wrenching, tender and powerful." (Jean Kwok, New York Times best-selling author of Searching for Sylvie Lee)

“Out of this this little-known corner of history, Steil offers a beautiful meditation on the things we all hold dear - family, friendship, home. My Beautiful Friend meets The Pianist in this elegant symphony of a novel.” (Ruth Gilligan, author of Nine Folds Makes a Paper Swan)

"Jennifer Steil has created a world that is as fierce and stunning as her exquisite language. She dares ask the question where do we belong - and forces the reader to question our own conceptions of what makes a home. Ultimately, this is a story of a woman searching for herself following unimaginable trauma." (Elizabeth L. Silver, author of The Execution of Noa P. Singleton

What listeners say about Exile Music

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Superb!

I read a lot of books in this genre. Exile Music tells it's story from a unique point of view, that of a family that escaped Nazi occupied Vienna and settled in Bolivia. Bolivia also became a refugee to Nazi perpetrators, creating startling tension in the plot. Everything about this book is marvelous: beautifully writing, multidimensional characters, well structured plot and a perfect ending. Besides being moved to tears by the story, I learned a lot about Bolivian history and culture and the role it played during and after the Holocaust and WW II. Wonderful narration as well!

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Beautiful!

For the first part of the book, I thought “oh no, not another Holocaust story.” I’m so glad I stuck with it. This is an incredibly beautiful story, so well written and narrated. It is truly one of the best I’ve experienced in a very long time.

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a story of hope and heartbreak.

An enchanting novel that will leave you wanting more. a novel that will expand your knowledge on the history of war and the reality that accompanied it.

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Absolutely beautiful

One of my favorite books to date. So much emotion and history wrapped together and narrated so perfectly.

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Excellent book

Steil has written a lyrical book. She introduces us to the Jewish world in Bolivia during the Holocaust. It is well researched, both the Austrian part and the Bolivian part and captures the range of human emotions and reactions. Her writing is fantastic and Huber does a great job reading in the multiple languages throughout the book. It is a really different take on the Shoah and experiences people had. The tie in with Mahler’s music in the way the book is structured is brilliant.

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War of Hearts and Eternity

To understand Loss and broken hearts is told within these pages. The destruction of lives torn asunder and Love tested beyond all boundaries. the Strength we have can not be measured by the breaths you take but only ever by the things that Take your breath away!

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Pretty good

This book could have been really good had the author had the courage to change the stereotypical ending. It was predictable. Excellent narration and the characters were quite good. Overall I would recommend this book but buyers beware of the storybook ending.

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Beautiful sorry, unexpected plot

I was weary to start yet another book about World War II but I’m so glad I did! The story so beautifully written and I love that it’s not your typical take on a family’s experience in Austria during World War II. Definitely worth a read!