Lazega’s (Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law and Practice, 2014, etc.) first foray into narrative nonfiction chronicles the life of his fearless Bubbie, a tough-as-nails Holocaust survivor.
It was a request that Bubbie’s grandson would not easily forget: “I vant you should write these tings down. Mine stories—mine life—I vant you should make a book from these tings, a book to tell vhat I did to bring mine children here to this country.” It is precisely these “tings” that are vividly choreographed as Lea Lazega, a young Jewish mother living a fairly idyllic life in Belgium, sees her life upended as the Nazis come knocking on the family’s door. Traversing the vast canvas of wartime Europe with three young children in tow, Lea somehow makes it through, relying mostly on her wits and the kindness of strangers. The chapters detailing the Lazegas’ flight alternate with her life as a Bubbie in Miami Beach, as her family tries to figure out how to care for the aging matriarch who “just won’t get across her head that she’s not still the tough, independent go-getter she used to be.” The breezy yet reverent tone perfectly captures not just Bubbie’s complex personality, but her place in the context of an extended Jewish family in which relationships are prized above all else. Even if some of the details seem nearly improbable (the trek across the Pyrenees, for example), the account is based on a “collage of Bubbie’s memories,” and, as Lazega points out, “like any memory there are sure to be gaps and conflicts.” While the Miami Beach Bubbie occasionally veers into caricature, in the end she emerges as a remarkable woman with an indomitable spirit. “A million dollars they’ll pay you for this book,” Bubbie predicted before she passed away in 2006. While that forecast might not quite come true, Lazega’s biography of sorts is nevertheless a winner. By showcasing one family’s incredible journey toward survival, it also lends a personal touch to the greater tragedy that was the Holocaust.
A successful twofer: a moving ode to a beloved family matriarch and a valuable reminder about the role of history in shaping even seemingly ordinary lives.