Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mothers, Daughters, Pain

Jenna Blum's Those Who Save Us is not a happy story. Anna, the mother, and Trudy, the daughter, have not led happy lives. But sometimes it is good to read about troubled lives, learn from them, feel empathy, and be better equipped to handle troubles in our own lives that will seem small by comparison. Anna was a young woman in Germany during World War II. She fell in love with a Jewish man, who was then betrayed by Anna's father and sent to a concentration camp. She ends up as the mistress to a German SS officer--not by choice but by motivated by fear and the need to survive. She has kept many secrets from Trudy, who was very young and does not remember much about those early years. Trudy is now a professor of German studies at a university in Minnesota and has embarked on a project that involves interviewing non-Jewish Germans who lived during the Holocaust. The book flips back in time from the 40s to the 90s and we watch as Trudy's memories of her and her mother's life in Germany, sparked by her interviews, gradually appear and dramatically affect her life. Ultimately, the past and the present overlap. It's a difficult but beautifully written story.

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