Moving from WWII Bucharest to 1970s Los Angeles, a Jewish physician’s memoir details a remarkable journey that includes her escape from communist persecution and, later, her efforts to free herself from the bureaucracy of HMOs.
Immigrating to the United States in 1971, Lowe looks back on a difficult life spent on the brink of tragedy. Daughter of a prosperous Romanian doctor, the author endured the 1944 bombing of Bucharest, the threat of Jewish deportation and the rise of communism after the war. Striking details and extraordinary moments help lift the familiar story above standard WWII fare. An air-raid shelter in the basement of the Municipal Theatre–stage backdrops and actors’ costumes surrounding the hidden–offers strange surroundings to a night of bombing. Ice skates are converted to durable shoes when the family believes they will be forced out of the city on foot, the holes where the blades were attached filled with candle wax. The prose sometimes suffers from awkward phrasing and flawed syntax (English is not the author’s first language), but its peculiarities lend the writing personality and poignancy. After the war, Lowe took on the demanding academic route of following her father’s footsteps and becoming a doctor, a difficult feat at the time, especially for a woman and a Jew. The tales of the young doctor’s early years practicing in the countryside offer entertaining medical mysteries, made even more complicated by the limited supplies and compromised technology. A case of fever, sore throat and sudden death confounds authorities until Lowe, subscribing to the belief that the worst should be considered first, diagnoses diphtheria. In America, struggling with a new language, the author puts her all into passing the necessary exams to maintain her certification, setting up a thriving private practice. Although some of the episodes are too rushed and sketchy, failing to generate tension and feeling, the memoir succeeds as a quick, memorable tale of determination overcoming adversity.
A woman of great strength and spirit pens a winning tale of survival.