A character study built around an appalling historical period and a testimony to the strength of the wounded spirit’s ability to endure and live a meaningful, if not entirely happy, life.
In the summer of 1936, Karel Bondy and his wife—Czechoslovakian Jews raising three young children in Prague—are happy and free. But their idyllic life is forever changed in 1943, when the Nazis sweep in and “relocate” the family to a holding camp in Terezin, and from there, the dreaded train takes them to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Men are separated from women and children, and this is the last time Karel sees his family. We experience the horrors of Auschwitz through Karel’s eyes and come to understand that some experiences are worse than death. Karel and a few others attempt escape and miraculously find themselves outside the camp. Survival instinct rules, and not everyone makes it, but Karel manages to live. Later, he resumes his life as Carl Barry in the United States, only to find the country surprisingly “forgetful” just seven years after the death of Hitler: “Seven years is not even time enough to go gray or get fat. Certainly not to forget.” Duberstein alternates between Karel’s life in Europe and Carl’s in America, taking readers to the year 2000, when for a dying Carl, past and present begin to merge in a sensitive ending. Through it all, Duberstein treats readers to Karel’s introspective, intelligent and ironic view on all that comes to pass. He’s a memorable, complex character.
One man, two lives. Duberstein (The Twoweeks, 2012, etc.) creates a powerful story of humanity and inhumanity in this tale of war, survival and healing.