Love lost in Alsace during World War II, rediscovered 50 years later in New Jersey.
A former New York Times journalist, Maitland has seized on her family’s far-flung tale of fleeing the Nazis in Europe and energetically made it her own. Having grown up under her mother’s heavy emotional baggage, the author came to share the sense of shame and sadness that her mother carried with her as an immigrant to the United States in 1943, a refugee of Nazi Germany. Maitland’s mother Janine, along with her German-speaking parents, sister and brother, originally fled in 1938 from Freiburg, having lost everything they owned. From Mulhouse, France, where the teenagers hastily learned French, they moved to Gray, where the family eventually got transit papers to pass through to the Free Zone. The family then landed in Lyon, where Janine, now a young woman, reignited a friendship with a dashing Catholic law student, Roland Arcieri. After falling in love during their brief time together, Janine was yanked away again with her family—to Cuba and then America. Soon married to a successful salesman, Janine did not stop grieving for her first love, and Arcieri apparently tried to find her. However, Janine’s father, who wanted her to have a fresh start in America, intercepted his letters. In 1989, Maitland organized a trip back to Freiberg and to Mulhouse with her family. Once her father died, she tracked down Arcieri, who was then living in Montreal. Though the details of the courtship are a little bizarre, especially since the author re-creates her mother’s bold seduction of Arcieri, who was married, this is a touching story about the odd collision of fate and will.
A poignantly rendered, impeccably researched tale of a rupture healed by time.