In this memoir, the last in a trilogy, a woman escapes war-torn Europe and begins a new life, filled with books and romance, in the United States.
Zebroski (Mephisto Waltz, 2014, etc.) was born in 1934 in Latvia. Her family had already known great adversity: Her maternal grandparents, Baltic Germans, had fled Russia when the revolution broke out there in 1917. When World War II erupted, her family was yet again threatened by Soviet invasion, so they fled to Germany and then to Austria, narrowly missing the infamous bombing of Dresden. The author’s father eventually had no choice but to enlist—deserters would be executed—and as a result, he was later fatally wounded in the Battle of Berlin in 1945. Until she was able to make her way to the United States in 1954, the author often contended with straitened circumstances: hiding out in bomb shelters, deprived of proper nourishment and medical attention, and separated from her mother for stretches of time. Much of this memoir is devoted to her eventful romantic pursuits later on, especially after she came to America: Her first husband, Kurt, was obsessed with sex, she writes; her second husband, Alain Genko, who took her to live in France, suffocated her with his jealousy, she says. Finally, while working for General Electric, she met Edwin Zebroski, a talented research scientist, to whom she would be married for more than 40 years. She enjoyed a surfeit of romances along the way, the most memorable being Oscar, a man she met in Los Angeles, with whom she fell rapturously in love and would remain so. The author also doggedly pursued her education, eventually studying English and child psychology at San José State University and later successfully realizing her dream of becoming a published author.
Zebroski’s story is deeply inspirational—once a starving refugee, she finally got a university degree and later became a successful real estate investor and writer, ending her family’s tortured legacy of imperilment. She writes with startling, confessional candor throughout, and she’s unafraid to forthrightly discuss her missteps as well as her accomplishments. The prose is unfailingly clear, and it affectingly depicts her desire to make a permanent home in the United States instead of succumbing to a fugitive mentality. “The journey of sorting out my memories gave me purpose,” she writes. “Yes, I can do it. Find my place in the world I had chosen to live in and was fortunate to get to.” At the heart of this gripping remembrance is the author’s sense of romanticism, which is expressed in her pursuit of both men and education, and it’s indicative of a remarkable will to avoid becoming cynical, which any reader might reasonably expect. She also furnishes a perspicacious commentary on the tumultuous cultural upheavals of the 1960s and ’70s, discussing such topics as the Vietnam War, the rise of the counterculture, the promiscuous use of drugs among her youthful contemporaries, and the sexual revolution.
A captivating recollection that’s filled with novelistic drama.