Having now finished this book my head cannot drop the following question: Do you rate a book by the seriousness of the topic or simply by asking yourself honestly, how much did you like the book?! If you go by the first criteria all holocaust books will get five stars. Thenhow does a reader choose which to pick? I have followed my emotional response to this book. I liked the book, so three stars. Please, please remember this does not mean people should not read the book. In fact I think this book shuld be read by everyone. I am still giving it three stars. I hope those of you reading this reviews understand my line of reasoning.
I think it is very important to read books about the holocaust, books that depict the lives of particular survivors and what they lived through. The language in this book is matter-of-fact. You will understand exactly the horrors that this author experienced. I have below given you excerpts so I believe you understand how the author expresses herself. The writing is wiped free of emotion. It is the events that suck you into turning page after page.. The author's lack of emotion is perhaps a result of who she is having endured these experiences. Nevertheless, the author's inability to express her emotions made this book difficult for me to read.
The author draws pictures of people, facial characteristics, such as the shape and size of the nose, how the eyes are placed, how an individual holds his body, the color and shape of the eyes. This may seem excessive, but think about it. Those who have been in concentration camp must look at the human body with different eyes! How do we look with our hair shorn off, emaciated, deathly ill, covered with sores? Do you see? Wouldn't you be attuned to the length of the leg, the shape of the head? So as a result, I have come to perhaps understand why such descriptions are necessary.
There is a very important reason why this book should be read, even given all the holocaust literature from which one can choose. Look at the title. "Thanks to My Mother". I am not going to give spoilers, but you should read this book to find out what the author's mother did to save her child. The author was only 10-11 years old and she survived. I am sure you have read other holocaust literature. You know how the weak, the young and the old were those killed first. You should read this book to find out about this amazing woman, the mother of the author! But why is it important to know about her? It is important b/c, against all odds, she suceeded. She didn't give up. She saved her daughter. And what more does this say? It says loud and clear that what one individual does is important. One person can make a huge difference. One may never think that ones's own choices are insignificant. And that she suceeded proves that when you think all is hopeless, there is still a chance of happiness and hope at the end of a long dark tunnel. You can never let yourself give up. Sometimes this has to be banged into your head.
Through page 100: My preious criticisms are unjust. From page 63 you simply cannot put the book down. There is no distance whatsoever between the reader and the author and her mother. Wait until you have the chance to mee Raja, tha author's mother. On first appearnaces you will see a beutiful woman, but there is much beneath the surface. Beauty is only skin deep. Wait until you know what she is capable of doing. What strngth and determination. I am going to add a quote from the lips of this woman:
I lay in my mother's arms.....My mother comforted me and talked quietly with me. I asked how those mothers could have thrown away their infants, there on the heaps of bundles. My mother tried to explain it to me. She said, "Susinka, they are young; it is important they survive. Together with their children, they had no chance to save themselves. The war will pas; the horror will end; and these girls and young women will have new children. It will be good; they will be free and happy. And never forget, you cannot judge them. No one may condem them that hasn't been in their situation."
Then in that car, on a journey into the unknown, I learned that people in extreme situations can behave completely differently from the way they usually do. No one can know how he would himself behave. Many who give the impression of being strong might allow themselves to become discouraged, and weak ones might become heroes.
I think the last line spoken by the mother is something all should remember. The last paragraph is also noteworthy. Time after time, I have run into this observation, particularly when reading holocaust literature. You do not know how you will react in an extreme situation. You may think you are strong, but you could easily be one of those who crumbles. This is another reason why one should not judge others.
Through page 73: I have read eleven more pages, and I must add that my heart is pounding b/c what she is experiencing is heart-wrenching. Ughh, one mustn't have claustrophobia! Me, I am happy to be able to breathe fresh air. It doesn't even have to be fresh, as long as there is plenty of it. I wrote "no spoilers", so I cannot say more.
Through 62 pages of 246: There is certainly nothing wrong with this book, except that the prose style has no magic....... All the facts about the times and family members are very clearly presented. It is just that the families are huge and every single member is described meticulously from the inside out, from their toes to their hair tips. I had to start over and write down who was who, there are so darn many family members. Something is wrong b/c as yet my heart is not really drawn to any of them. They are described rather than felt. The book is concerned with the author's Jewish families, both her father's and her mothers. Her parents were divorced, and this is where the narrative begins, what happened the day she found out that her parents were henceforth divorced. She loved both. The families of both remained a central part of her life. Both families lived in Vilnius, Lithuania, which had been Polish, but Russian troops marched in on September 1939. Thereafter, on June 22, 1941, the Russians fled and the Germans took control. This book is about the author's life and her families' lives in Vilnius while history played itself out over their heads. It is about life in the Jewish ghetto. Well, that is where I am now.
There are poems throughout the narrative, and these poems were written by the author when she was a child living in the ghetto. They have not been altered. They are beautifuly expressive. There are photos of the family members. There are number of those killed on this day and that day and the following week. They are just numbers until one of those became a family member. The author, even as a child, is aware of her retinence. She lies on her bed, face to the wall, to escape the world around her. Maybe this is why the reader feels a distance between themselves and the people in the book. Maybe this is why she expresses herself as she does?! I will quote a bit to give you a sense of how the author expresses herself. The following is from pages 46-47:
I often saw an old man sitting on the steps of our house. His clothes were dirty and torn; he had a wild gray beard and he clutched a broken tin plate beneath his padded coat. I heard the adults talking about him; they were discussing what they should do about him.
I was sorry for him, and one day I gave him my shawl. I was very surprised that my mother wasn't angry at me for having done that. I asked her who the man living in our stairwell was. I learned that he was an uncle of my mother's - an older brother of my dead grandmother - Great-Uncle Miron......
My mother liked him very much and took the trouble to make sure he got one warm meal a day; that was all she could do for him. All that spring our uncle stayed in that stairwell. When the "old people's action" took place, he disappeared, and we never saw him again.
An action was the term used to depict elimination of a certain group of people from the ghetto..... in oother words death. Strange, look how people shy away from saying outright what is going on!
At the start of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union, over sixty thousand Jews had lived in Vilnius. One year after we had been sent to the ghetto, after all the "actions" we had survived, we still numbered about eighteen thousand Jews. (page 50)