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After Long Silence

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really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  2,898 ratings  ·  328 reviews
"To this day, I don't even know what my mother's real name is."

Helen Fremont was raised as a Roman Catholic. It wasn't until she was an adult, practicing law in Boston, that she discovered her parents were Jewish--Holocaust survivors living invented lives. Not even their names were their own. In this powerful memoir, Helen Fremont delves into the secrets that held her fami
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Paperback, 368 pages
Published January 11th 2000 by Delta (first published 1999)
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Sheri I'm assuming it's a memoir/autobiography as it's the story of the author's life. …moreI'm assuming it's a memoir/autobiography as it's the story of the author's life. (less)

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Jan Rice
“When a writer is born into a family, the family is finished'*--Czeslaw Milosz.

*And, I might add, if the family isn't finished, then the writer is.”

Gary Shteyngart, Little Failure


The writer Helen Fremont is not finished, but I got the feeling, from the book review for its sequel (from which I found out about this one), that her family is giving her a run for the money. That is what I learned a little more about from this book. I think I'll read that sequel as well, in hopes of wielding it again
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Shaindel
Dec 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: nonfiction/Holocaust/Jewish
This may be the first memoir I've ever made it through because I'm NOT a fan of nonfiction. (If life were so interesting, why would we need to make stuff up?). I read this book b/c Helen Fremont is a friend of a friend and was a guest writer giving a reading at the community college where I taught at the time. This book is a beautifully told story paralelling Fremont's discovery that her family was covering up their Jewish identity after the Holocaust, which prompts her to come out of the closet ...more
Jeanette
Dec 19, 2017 rated it liked it
At times while reading this story, I wondered at any of the actual verity of facts. It's not that I refused to believe this woman lawyer. Or that I mistrust that she did not believe and desire to tell the entire truth. It is just that I think the people who told it to her all had such emotional mental disability of after effect cognition that each and every detail needs to be taken with a "grain of salt" as to any context accuracy.

Even within the era and placements of these events that Helen Fr
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Charlie
Feb 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Helen and Lara Fremont were raised as Roman Catholics ----- really? Their mom and dad lived in Poland during WW11 and came to America shortly after the war. Simple story? COMPLICATED !!!
During their childhood days the sisters started to have questions about who they were - who are our parents? Things were not making sense when confronting the parents about their past. Helen was determend to figure it ALL out one way or another.
This story, a memoir, has twists and turns that are mind boggling. I
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J.C.
Jun 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A good memoir but take it with a grain of salt. The subjects in the book (her parents) were less than willing subjects and and suffered such mental trauma that memories are sketchy at best. The real problem with this book is its style. This book is full of similes and metaphors that make little sense and throws off the rhythm of the story telling, the chronology is all over the place and sometimes there are tangents that don't fit the story. What's great about this book is the story itself, if t ...more
Doreen Petersen
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwii
An excellent read of the long lasting impact of WWII. I would definitely recommend this one!
Nancy
Feb 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Best of all worlds!
1 - A fascinating account of a dramatic time in our history
2 - Written in an intriguing (but clear and logical) back-and-forth-through-history manner
3 - Written with a love of the language - bright, stylish, with each figure of speech perfectly matching the action and emotion of the moment.

Three favorite passages:
(pg 209-210) Enemies were always available in all my games of war. They were lurking in the bushes, surrounding the house, creeping under the barbed wire across the
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Natasha
Aug 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
As an adult, Helen Fremont learns that her family are not Roman Catholics but actually Jews. Her parents survived the holocaust and raised their children outside their faith to ensure that they were never persecuted. She mentions being taught the Lords Prayer in several languages so she would always be able to "prove" her Christianity. This was a compulsively readable book. I found I could not put it down. I even stood at the stove cooking with it in my hand. Her parent's past saddened me and I ...more
John McKelvie
Jun 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Daughters research their Jewish history after learning that parents hid their identity to escape the holocaust and Soviets. Juxtaposes the daughters' lives with the horrors of their parents' lives. Though the book doesn't fully explore the issue, the author raises an interesting question about right to know parents history and to bring back to them memories they want to forget. ...more
Jan
Feb 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
Helen and her sister Lara had always known there were things their parents wouldn't discuss about their past. Their parents barely escaped WWII Europe with their lives -- their mother from Poland, and their father from grueling years in a Siberian gulag.

Years later, raised as Polish Catholics in the U.S., Helen and Lara start to ask more questions about their parents' experiences in Europe during the war. The parents' cheerful but persistent subject-changing makes the girls wonder what is being
...more
Gina Ulicny
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
5 . Really a 9.9 because of what the story is about and all the messages of the layering of harm that secrets create. This underlying man-inflicted fear is diabolical, and it seeps into the most mundane aspects of daily life. Heart breaking, yet hope is never lost as love is written on most every page.

The physical, mental and emotional evil that so many people endured; and even more so those who inflicted it, and stood by and allowed it. A stain on humanity like no other. And the shame was so g
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Paul
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is not a recent book. I had it recommended to me based on other books I had read. It is a gripping Holocaust story that begins as a mystery. The author is a Michigander who grew up Roman Catholic. Her family faithfully went to mass, but always sat in the back row and left the church before the distribution. The author always felt there was something not quite transparent and strange about her parents and their backgrounds.

After much research, visiting Poland, Ukraine, and other European cou
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Jenni
Apr 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Maybe 3.5 stars.

It's tough for me to give an account about survivors of the Holocaust anything less than five stars, but this wasn't a favorite read and at times I found it boring and a bit laborious to get through. Still, this was a poignant story of the author's parents' survival during the Holocaust after the author discovered her Jewish roots, which her parents had kept secret.

While it was touching and interesting, the book bounced between characters and time periods, and because her parent
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Jake
magine being raised as Mid-western, pseudo-religious Catholic, only to learn that your parents are in fact, Polish Jews, and survivors of the Holocaust to boot. Imagine that, and you'll have some idea of what Helen Fremont went through.

After Long Silence is a memoir in several parts, jumping between Fremont's childhood, where she wondered about her father's experiences in a gulag that left him with a permanently damaged arm, and learned to say "Hail Mary" in six different languages from her moth
...more
Stephanie
Aug 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographical
Publisher's Description:

"To this day, I don't even know what my mother's real name is."

"Helen Fremont was raised as a Roman Catholic. It wasn't until she was an adult, practicing law in Boston, that she discovered her parents were Jewish—Holocaust survivors living invented lives. Not even their names were their own. In this powerful memoir, Helen Fremont delves into the secrets that held her family in a bond of silence for more than four decades, recounting with heartbreaking clarity a remarkabl
...more
Susan
Sep 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"After Long Silence," a work of nonfiction, follows the story of two sisters who unravel the mystery of their parents' pasts in Europe during World War II. Fremont tells this story with the energy of discovery yet also with a self-awareness that maybe she is uncovering truths that might be better to let lie. Her father spent two years in a Soviet prison in Siberia, surviving on his wits and guts alone. Her mother and aunt (sisters) survived the war by taking on new identities as Italian Catholic ...more
Alison
May 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
I wish I could rate this 4.5. I devoured this book. I'm not usually one to stay up all night reading, but I almost did it with this one (early meetings are the only thing that stopped me). Part of it was Fremont's subject-matter: finding out as an adult that her family history is not at all what she thought it was. But a lot of my praise for this book comes from Fremont's writing style, which blends her own stories of finding out about her family history, to narratives about her parents themselv ...more
Laurie
Nov 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is the exact kind of book that I like to read: non-fiction, a memoir, and decent writing. The author chronicles her parents "secret" past as Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. The book jacket misleads the prospective reader into believing this woman had no idea of what her parents went through in the war - when she really was mainly unaware that they were Jewish - she had grown up hearing constantly of stories from the War. But of course it is incredibly shocking that Ms. Fremont did not le ...more
Nick
Aug 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely stunning story. The authors quest to understand her family's story & history takes everyone on an incredible journey. What her parents went through, and how they survived is shocking. And the secrets they kept for 50+ years are even more unbelievable. Anyone with an interest in genealogy or the horrors of WWII should read this. In fact, this book should be purchased and sit on your bookshelf along side of 'The Diary of Anne Frank' & 'Night', because this story is as profound and ha ...more
Karen
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 stars. What a remarkable memoir!
Mary
Jun 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
DNF due to content issues.

I finally found this book on Goodreads--I had forgotten the title, and I've spent years trying to remember, after I decided I should write a negative review someday. I won't just yet, but I'm saving it for that purpose.

I DNF-ed this book because of major content that was too much for me. (Mostly adult sexual content and some disturbing things.) It felt icky and made me extremely uncomfortable, and I couldn't keep reading. I quit when it got severe, but I should have s
...more
Barbara Nutting
Oct 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As the charcoal gray clouds of war were creeping in on Poland September 1, 1939, I kept wanting to shout “get out”, “leave”, but I was too late. A very moving story of the Holocaust told from a unique perspective. The description was vivid and the writing top-notch.

I wish I’d read this first, before The Escape Artist, but it didn’t matter too much.
Diane
Oct 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Compelling survival story also shows the frustration when some people in a family want to know the truth and others don't. ...more
Kristen
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, 2019
Fascinating memoir about the power and devastation of family secrets. Helen Fremont was raised Roman Catholic in a small town in Midwest America. Her parents, immigrants from Poland, rarely spoke about the war or the death of their own parents. It wasn’t until Fremont was an adult, practicing law in Boston, that she unraveled the truth about her family history: her parents were Jewish and Holocaust survivors. Their tale of survival reads like a thriller complete with secret identities, dangerous ...more
Milee
Feb 09, 2020 rated it did not like it
Hard to believe the extent of the truth in this. How can someone have their parents reveal their most painful horrific secrets in confidence to their daughter and then have their daughter turn around and publish them to the world (while they are still living)?? Unspeakably selfish. This just must have compounded their horrific experience....the prepublished prologue in the next book to come out in Feb 11, 2020, says Helen was pretty much written out of her fathers will (she was considered predec ...more
Catherine Kapphahn
Sep 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put this book down! I connected to the author and her sister's experience of uncovering
an unexpected identity, discovering a traumatic history, and excavating family secrets in order to find some sense of wholeness. While reading, I became attached to her vibrant family, which Fremont so gracefully brings to life on the page. I especially appreciated how she showed the upheaval of the truth; how facing one's history can fragment a life before the long process of integrating it into yo
...more
Elena
Mar 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
I picked this book-on-CD up at the library, because it was on the shelf and I needed something to listen to in the car. I didn't have high expectations for this book, but was in for a big pleasant surprise. It is a literary memoir of a daughter of the Holocaust survivor, who was raised to believe that she and her family were Catholic, when in fact her roots ran deep into her Jewish family tree. She and her sister didn't discover their true "identity" until both were adults. It is beautifully wri ...more
Jessica
May 27, 2017 rated it liked it
This was harrowing tale of how two people survived the Holocaust. Unfortunately the two people did not want to talk about it and this is where the book suffered. The situations Helen's parents found themselves in were "manufactured" by the author, as her parents did not want to relive the horror. They really happened but the dialogue and details were placed there, as the eyewitnesses did not wish to add them in. She had a lot of knowledge of what happened to them, but kept pressing. I was uncomf ...more
Cj
May 10, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read these books in the "wrong" order reading the more recent memoir first. I now understand why her family is so irate with her. This book isn't her memoir, it's her parent's story and they have every right to feel violated for their personal lives becoming public. While a memoirist will of course have to include others in their tale, the story should be about them first.

"Shh! Listen!"
"She heard the wind in the trees, a dog barking ... wheels of a baby carriage squeaking .... Cats moved noise
...more
Pamela
Oct 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: holocaust
Excellent book! I truly enjoyed reading Helen Fremont's quest to find the truth about her parents' lives. Her mother survives their ordeals of being Jews in Poland when Hitler was at his height by pretending to be Catholic . . . which is understandable, but why did she choose to keep up the facade for over 50 years? Her father escaped a Russian gulag to also hide under the veil of Catholicism. Her quest for answers uncovers some truths, but some questions are not completely answered. The reader- ...more
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