I won this from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program in exchange for an honest review. I did feel some pressure to quickly review. Though I wouldnI won this from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program in exchange for an honest review. I did feel some pressure to quickly review. Though I wouldn’t read any other reviews until after I wrote and posted my own review, I noticed that many reviews have already been posted, many more at Goodreads than at LibraryThing.
I read a paperback uncorrected proof not for sale with 356 pages. I received it on May 11. It has an expected publication date July 5th. I read it as a buddy read with my Goodreads friend Caroline, in an open group thread where others were and will be welcome to participate. It took me from 5/26-6/4 to read it. I guess I’m greedy because I love when advance copies are the final version ready for sale in stores. Most of the first “advance copies” I got, years ago, were like that, so I find myself disappointed when I get uncorrected proof copies. However, as long as I get them in advance of publication date, I’m satisfied, and that was the case with this book. I have already reserved a library copy so I can see the book’s dedication, the acknowledgements, and anything else missing from the uncorrected proof edition.
From the book’s description I’d thought it wouldn’t be but it was actually okay to read close to bedtime, even though it was seriously creepy at many times, but there were certainly parts when I was incredibly glad I wasn’t eating while reading.
I do love post apocalyptic stories, orphan stories, survival stories, and coming of age stories, and so this book was definitely my cup of tea.
I love the unique and quirky main character/narrator, though it took me a while to warm up to her, probably partly because of her dialect and partly because of her living situation she describes at the beginning of the book. Even before I was fully engaged, I was never bored, but always interested in continuing with the story. Overall, I liked it more and more as I read on. My empathy for her did kick into high gear, and it increased throughout the book, but it took about 70 pages for me to deeply feel for her. Up until then I was having a hard time getting emotionally attached, and was surprised I didn’t care as much as I thought I should, given her life circumstances. I particularly loved that she’s very tough, and matter of fact, and irreverent, and strong and vulnerable, empathetic despite herself, and funny too.
For a time I was hung up on how her dialect sounded so different from the man she’d lived with for 10 years, at a young age (7-17) when people usually pick up on the language of those around them, and sounded different from everyone else, but by the end that seemed like a non-issue. Since there were so many different people and groups of people and they all had their own ways of speaking, it ended up okay for me.
The book has a lot of suspense, and it was hard to put down once it got going; there was so much danger and tension that it was hard for me to take a breath for long periods.
However foreign in some ways this world is, not only could I imagine it as such in the all too near future, but it contained many truths about the present world and its people as well. This is a world where devastating wars have decimated the population, and changed the natural world in some ways, but it’s also realistic fiction. It was so interesting to get the perspectives of the main character and other characters, most two or three generations away from the calamitous events that happened to the world and that changed society. There are still subcultures. Elka’s knowledge of nature/the natural world I found to be an especially interesting aspect of the story. It’s apparent fairly early on that the events take place in the area that is British Columbia in Canada, and because I’ve visited that area more than once it was fun for me to notice its similarities and differences compared to the modern world.
What I most disliked about the storytelling was its excessive foreshadowing. The main character narrator continually talked about what was going to happen, but not in a forthcoming way. I didn’t need being told in a cryptic way that some things (likely bad) were going to happen, and I didn’t like that way of moving along the story, yet somehow I enjoyed it anyway. But truthfully, the constant foreshadowing about drove me nuts. I was fine with the book starting with a scene near the end, but when I got to the scene introduced at the start of the book I didn’t think the reader needed such a long passage of identical words. The story and its characters were so compelling though that I forgave all of this, but I think the book would have been better without most of it.
As with many books I read I guessed way too much of what characters had done and what was going to happen, but that didn’t really ruin things for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed (in some cases enjoyed might not be the proper word but for one it perfectly fits) the few parts that were unexpected for me.
I don’t want to give away too much, but I particularly enjoyed the two “buddy stories” in the book. (view spoiler)[ I adore wolves and loved Wolf in the story, but though this was never addressed I think that Wolf is likely a wolf-dog hybrid. And Penelope, oh I got such a kick from her character, especially when she and Elka are together; I just love their relationship, especially because when I was introduced to Penelope I figured she’d be another character that Elka would leave behind, and all too soon. (hide spoiler)]
I thought that all the people were more than adequately explained, and they all seem believable and authentic, their personalities and behaviors and development consistently made sense. (view spoiler)[ I was surprised that there was even some explanation for Trapper, something I wanted but didn’t expect because how can such a person be truly explained, as characters in books or as people in real life. (hide spoiler)]
I thought that the three main female characters were particularly interesting, particularly the two younger ones.
I thought the story was particularly brilliant at understanding child abuse and trauma, and post traumatic stress.
I appreciated that everything was resolved to my satisfaction but that some things were left open ended and not too, too neatly wrapped up. What saddened me most, even though I think it’s weird that I care so much is (view spoiler)[ not even the facts around Elka finding her parents, which was not unanticipated, but that neither she nor the reader would ever know her true given name. I wanted to know! (hide spoiler)]
As I finished the book, I was left feeling wrung out, but with a great appreciation of this novel, with its authenticity, and even with its flaws. It’s very grim but it has heart.
Quotes from the book that I liked:
“One a' them rules is don't go trusting another man's path...People do it, they do what their mommies and daddies did, they make them same mistakes, they have them same joys and hurts, they just repeating. Trees don't grow exactly where their momma is; ain't no room...I weren't following no one up through life.”
“I seen women take this kind a' help from a man with a look a' relief on their faces. I wondered if these women knew how much easier their lives would be if they did all this stuff for themselves.”
“But I weren't no quitter No wolf nor bear just gives up when they get beat or hungry. You ever seen a bear jump off a cliff 'cause life handed him a few rough draws? No, you haven't. The wild keeps going till it don't have strength in its muscles and bones. The wild doesn't give up; it's forever, and so was I.”
“...shiny trinkets and frivolous spending make people forget what world they're living in.”
“You can't admit to someone else what you're too damn afraid to admit to yourself.”
Any local friends who’d like to read my copy before its official publication, please let me know, and we’ll make arrangements for me to lend it to you.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Thanks to my Goodreads friend Chrissie for convincing me to read this book. Because it was short and I didn’t want it to languish on my to-read shelf,Thanks to my Goodreads friend Chrissie for convincing me to read this book. Because it was short and I didn’t want it to languish on my to-read shelf, I borrowed it from the library. It never even got put on my currently reading shelf because even though I’m in the middle of a can’t put it down novel I decided to start it, a bit after midnight and ended up staying up half of the night reading it, until I had to sleep, so I finished up later in the morning. It was worth taking a few hours away from my novel to read it.
This book gives me hope that perhaps there are other elderly Holocaust survivors who will write other worthy memoirs.
This spare little book packs a punch, and it’s amazing how much the author is able to cover in this memoir, written as a letter to her father. She’s now an elderly woman. She was a Jew in France and at 15 she was sent to the concentration camps. She writes about her experiences in the camps, a bit about her life prior to that, and a lot about the scope of her entire life. While it’s true what other reviewers here have said that she hasn’t been able to get past the camps, nor have her surviving friends and relatives, I was actually impressed with how much she’s done in her life, how much good, despite the scars she continues to carry, despite how greatly her family was impacted, both during and after the war. She definitely makes a point of addressing the continued anti-Semitism in modern times and throughout various eras too, and the entirely of the book is what made it feel very important to me. I’m so glad that she wrote it and got it published.
I wish I could have read it in its original French but as far as I could tell it was a fine translation.
I mostly appreciate her honesty, as her way of expressing it cuts right to the heart of all that’s important, every time, in every way.
As I was reading I thought I might assign 4 stars to this book because I assumed I’d want more than what was contained within its 100 pages. By the time I got to the end though it felt complete. I can’t give it less than 5 stars. In a way it’s a slight book, but what’s there is brilliant and important. Outstanding book!
Note to self: Her father originally came from Poland and this author’s maiden name is Rozenberg, meaning mountain rose or mountain of roses. One of my grandparents was a Jew whose parents (My great grandparents) were born in Hungary, and their last name was Rosenberg, with the same meaning, just a different spelling. I always think of how the countries’ borders have changed over time. I know that this is a common name, but I’m interested in genealogy, and I always wonder who might be related to me, however distantly. I also recently found out that two of my other grandparents had ancestors from Poland, one might have been born there himself. Different surnames though.
Highly recommended for readers who like reading Holocaust memoirs, coming of age stories, historians, today’s young people high school and up.
“Surviving makes other people’s tears unbearable. You might drown in them.”
“...our family became a place where you screamed for help but no one heard, not ever.”
“...our history, the history of European Jews...they will never forgive us for the evil they've done to us” ...more