Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Book Review: Bending Toward the Sun

It does seem to be Book Review Week around here. Which I think is good, because we are heading up toward Simchat Torah, in which we celebrate our most precious Book of all, the Torah.

I read Bending Toward the Sun: A Mother and Daughter Memoir, in just 2 days. It was an engrossing personal memoir, weaving together the voices of mother, daughter, and granddaughter.

The book began with Rita's story, a really amazing account of her years in hiding in Poland during the Holocaust. What was most remarkable to me was that almost the whole family was able to hide together, and most of them survived together. What a horrible ordeal for five-year-old Rita and her whole family, as she saw the death of her brother and her mother while in hiding.

Leslie's own tale is no less remarkable. Usually the tale ends with redemption, the end of the war, the emigration. But Leslie tells what happens next, the impact of those horrible years would have on future generations. We are very very concerned with documenting the stories of the survivors. We know that their generation is growing older, more frail, their memories fading - and there are incredible institutions and organizations working to preserve that history. Leslie's words remind the reader of the indelible scar left by the Holocaust on the future generations. Her awareness that things are different in her family, that her mother's experience has such a deep impact on her own life and even the life of her own child demonstrates the depth of the trauma.

The return to Poland was a particularly poignant section of the book. Leslie's realization of what her mother's life had been like and her own discovery of those places and people were breath-taking. Her daughter Mikaela's input into the book was striking as well, and the last chapter's title: Legacy, says it well. While the horror of the war years had great impact on this family, the strength and courage of Rita and her family leave a beautiful and lasting legacy.

I am thankful to the publicist for Leslie Gilbert-Lurie's book, who sent me a review copy. Want to read this book? (You do.) Leave a comment here and I'll give my copy away to one lucky reader at the end of the week.

Other reviews: by Reiza and Jew Wishes (anyone else, j-bloggers?)


Jew Wishes said...

What an excellent review of an excellent book.

It really puts the focus on the successive generations, and the effects and how they were and are affected by their Holocaust Survivor parents and/or relatives.

Sara said...

This book sounds absolutely fascinating.

me said...

This book looks amazing. I am writing an MA thesis on representations of the Holocaust in American literature, and having something with sections by three different generations will surely add to the depth of my sources. (If i don't "win" the book, I suppose I'll have to buy it...)
sara g

Carla said...

Just completed a book and was looking for another read. Your excellent review puts this one at the top of the list! Thanks!

Robin said...

I would definitely like to read it - I've been letting myself off too easy subjectwise lately, I feel the need to read something that will really make me think.