A vitally important Holocaust story eruditely captured.

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THE TRUE ADVENTURES OF GIDON LEV

RASCAL. HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR. OPTIMIST.

In this elegantly conceived memoir, a Czechoslovakia-born Holocaust survivor works with an LA editor to write his life story, and a tender friendship ensues.

Gidon Lev was born in Karlsbad, Czechoslovakia, in 1935. When he was 6, he and his mother were ordered by the Nazis to board a train to Theresienstadt concentration camp, where he remained until the age of 10. Lev lost 26 members of his family in the Holocaust. In 1959, he immigrated to Israel and served in the Six-Day War. His marriage to his first wife “fell apart incrementally but dramatically”; Lev found a note on her door saying she had gone to America, taking their children with her. A two-time cancer survivor himself, he lost his second wife to lung cancer months before Gray moved to Israel in 2012. Lev sought out Gray as an editor, but while collaborating on his book project, they spent “almost every day together” and realized they made “great life partners.” The memoir later recalls their visit to the West Bank and Lev’s horror that the “fenced-in” Arab villages remind him of Theresienstadt. Gray’s narrative voice—which fills in historical detail and offers personal commentary on moments such as when she returned to Theresienstadt with Lev—is delicately balanced with transcriptions of interviews with Lev. Lev’s vivid recollections of the concentration camp are haunting: “We didn’t really know that there were gas chambers. But there were rumors of things like that.” Lev casually throws in tantalizing nuggets of information about his family history (“The truth is, my grandfather owned a Stradivarius viola”), and Gray’s descriptions augment scenes, like when she recalls entering a torture room at Theresienstadt: “Starlings were swooping in and out of nests….Diving up, under the eaves on the outside of the buildings, they pulled bits of string and straw in after them.” Some readers may question the juxtaposition of Gray’s and Lev’s very different voices, but they blend together well, informing each other, and Gray ensures that Lev remains the central focus. Illustrated with Lev’s family photographs, this is a remarkable tale of survival and unexpected kinship.

A vitally important Holocaust story eruditely captured.

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73524-970-4

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A meandering chronicle of a year on the road.

FREEDOM

The bestselling author explores the lure of nomadism.

At the age of 51, childless and soon to be divorced, Junger spent much of one year walking 400 miles alongside railroad lines in the eastern U.S. with a changing cast of three companions and his dog. They called their trek “the Last Patrol”: an escape, “a temporary injunction against whatever was coming,” and an interlude of freedom from the restrictions and demands of conventional life. Because the swaths of property alongside railroad lines were “the least monitored” land in the country, it seemed a safe choice for the wanderers, who did not want to be mistaken for vagrants. “Most nights,” Junger notes, “we were the only people in the world who knew where we were.” The author’s contemplative, digressive narrative combines vivid details of the walk, which was completed in several segments, with political, social, and cultural history; anthropology; and science. He ruminates on nomadic society, hunter-gatherers, Indigenous peoples, the perilous escapes of runaway slaves, various wars, and conflicts that include Cain’s jealousy of Abel and Ireland’s Easter uprising. Sometimes these musings involve considerations of freedom; not always. “Throughout history,” he writes, “good people and bad have maintained their freedom by simply staying out of reach of those who would deprive them of it. That generally meant walking a lot.” Nomadism has romantic appeal for Junger, just as, he claims, it has had for “the settled world.” To hunter-gatherers, working the land seemed a form of subservience; nomadic societies, asserts the author, were more equitable than societies centered around land ownership. Among hunter-gatherers, “although leaders understandably had more prestige than other people, they didn’t have more rights.” Although the trip did not yield epiphanies, Junger finally arrived at a place where he decided to stop wandering and step into his future. It was time “to face my life.”

A meandering chronicle of a year on the road.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982153-41-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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