Bonfire of the Vanities film chronicler Salamon (The Devil's Candy, 1991) leaves Hollywood for sadder and more personal venues as she searches, none too successfully, to understand her family's history. Actually, Hollywood does put in a brief, distracting appearance in the person of Salamon's pal Steven Spielberg, whose filming of Schindler's List neatly coincides with Salamon's own excavation of her parents' Holocaust experiences on a trip to Eastern Europe. Her quest seems to be threefold: to understand her mother, Szimi, an optimistic, happy-go-lucky soul; her father, Sanyi, the ideal physician and ""saint"" of Adams County, Ohio; and the reason why these two Czech Jews, survivors of Auschwitz and Dachau, would settle in such a poor, remote town at the foot of the Appalachians. But while Salamon (formerly of the Wall Street Journal) can gather all the information, her unusual parents elude her powers of penetration; each is reduced to a single, most salient quality. Szimi's breezy detachment may have helped her survive the wartime trauma of deportation, deprivation, and resettlement, first in Prague, where she met Sanyi, and then in America. But at its extreme, when she revisits Auschwitz, this every-cloud-has-a-silver-lining attitude is downright bizarre (""You know, if I hadn't gone through this place I probably wouldn't have led such an interesting life""). Sanyi (who died of cancer when Salamon was 18) remains a remote figure; admitting herself that she barely knew her father, she paints Sanyi primarily as a dedicated doctor whose long silences and deep rages were due to the loss of his first wife and daughter at the hand of the Nazis. In the end, this narrative is at once too private and too impersonal--the reader floats on the surface of events and characters, unable to to enter into the Salamons' search for a safe place to raise their family.