A thoughtful, intense read that will appeal to fans of the short story format, used here to great effect.



A collection of short stories about the Eastern European experience in both the old country and the new.

As the Iron Curtain descended over Eastern Europe in the mid-20th century, a steady flow of emigrants fled to begin new lives in North America. Yakimov (Ashes of Wars, 2011) imagines a series of personal histories for both those who ventured west and those who stayed behind. Part I paints a picture of a modern Canada, a melting pot of ethnicities where there’s tolerance for cultural differences but perhaps not yet true mutual understanding and equality. In an apparently autobiographical story, “Resume of an Engineer,” a female engineer struggles to regain the respect and professional footing she enjoyed in Europe. In the title story, a man, despite having mixed feelings about both the old country and the new, acts as a go-between for fellow immigrants. Part II explores lives that continue to be lived in a changed Europe amid political upheaval, from the forced redistribution of land to the pervasiveness of alcoholism. “Zorah’s cottage,” the defining story here, is a history of a family home in which hope and contentment briefly rekindle, flicker, then die out. Yakimov writes evocatively and with lush expressiveness: “Thick, heavy mist hangs over the flanks of the peak and the mountains, spread out to both sides of it like a white shroud suspended from the sky.” Yet bleakness pervades her narratives. Her characters suffer—both from internal and external causes—and moments of happiness are tempered by troubles that remain unchanged by fortune or geography: family conflict, addiction, loneliness, difference, etc. A recurring theme throughout the stories is the immigrant returning to his or her homeland in the post-Communist era only to find that the reality no longer matches the memory. It’s a familiar motif, but Yakimov (who, like many of her characters, immigrated to Canada as an adult) handles it deftly, managing to avoid the obvious clichés.

A thoughtful, intense read that will appeal to fans of the short story format, used here to great effect.

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-5957-1410-0

Page Count: 180

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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


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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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