Rating 5 out of 5 stars
SPOILER ALERT – large parts of the story and the plot are revealed in this review.
This book undoubtedly touches upon an exceptionally dark phase in human history – the unflinching persecution of Jews by the Nazi dictatorship under the reign of Adolf Hitler. There are several books that shed light on this time frame and highlight each of the different facets of human behavior that surfaced during this time. The unbelievable cruelty, unbearable suffering and astonishing heroism. All of which surfaced in tandem in a deathly dance during this dark time.
This book tells the story of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew and his life journey. A sparkling, blessed childhood, then the dark days of Holocaust and the many struggles that continued after the end of the Nazi atrocities. In focus is the deep love he feels for a fellow prisoner Gita. Their love story is lined by their shining heroism in helping their camp mates no matter how difficult or dangerous it proves for them.
Lale, with wisdom, discretion, measured words and tremendous emotional intelligence, navigates the perilous circumstances in the concentration camp at Auschwitz. He not only manages to stay alive himself, but also is able to provide life saving assistance to several fellow prisoners and above all to the love of his life, Gita.
I enjoyed the focus on Lale’s relationship with his mother and the way he treats women during his life as a result of what he learns from his mother. It demonstrates a common phenomenon that a man’s relationship with his mother often dictates his relationship with other women in his life. Also it made me think how big a mother’s responsibility is when raising a son and how many female lives it will impact.
My favorite part of the book is towards the end and as told by Lale and Gita’s son. Lale and Gita have survived holocaust, married, built a family and a flourishing business. Their prosperous business is confiscated (Nationalized) by the government and overnight they lose everything. Their son narrates his memory of their last day in their now confiscated home by noting that his mother Gita was singing while packing her personal belongings. He asks her how, having lost everything, she still finds it in her heart to sing while she packs to leave her beloved home. Her response to her son is a message so strong and so true, both in her post Nazi world and in today’s Covid 19 infected society. She said to him, your father and you and me, we are all alive, healthy and there is no threat to our lives. All this wealth, we built it once and we will build it again.
I have been trying to hold on tho these words of wisdom in these trying times and remembering to be thankful for all the same things that Gita listed as most valuable. Everything else is figure out able.
Dear readers, if you pick this book up, I hope you find the same message of hope and triumph of good over evil, that was so uplifting to me. Please do share your thoughts and perspective on this book in the comments section below.