A simple, disciplined, and affecting addition to the genre of Holocaust memoirs.

I CARRIED THEM WITH ME

A YOUNG GIRL'S JOURNEY TO SURVIVE

A debut author recounts her experiences before and during the Holocaust.

Born in the eastern Czechoslovakian town of Sekernice to a family of religious Jews, Lumer had a traditional upbringing in a time and place with few amenities. She was responsible for working at her parents’ store, caring for her younger siblings, and praying every day: “I had no idea what I was saying, but I knew it was very important, because if I didn’t say that prayer every morning, there was a very good chance I would get punished by God.” The first section of the book comprises anecdotes about growing up in Sekernice, a multilingual town in the Carpathian Mountains home to various ethnic groups and religious traditions. The second section follows Lumer’s life after her relocation in 1943 to Budapest, where her parents sent her at the age of 15 in hopes that she would be safe there with her older brothers for the duration of World War II. The following spring, Germany invaded Hungary and began deporting its Jews to concentration camps. Lumer’s wartime experiences included multiple camps and forced marches in dire conditions, though she somehow found the will—and luck—to remain alive despite all that the world threw at her. The author, as the introduction reveals, wrote this book with the editing help of Joe Lumer, her son; it is dedicated to his memory. She tells her story in simple, declarative prose, with little commentary beyond the bare facts and emotions of each experience. “The guards kept telling us it was only a little longer, only a little farther, and we would arrive,” she writes of one march. “I fell again and couldn’t get up, so I started crawling on all fours, like a dog.” She resists offering easy explanations of the conflict and the genocide, or what both might portend for the future, simply repeating her remembrances and allowing them to weigh on readers. This gives the earlier episodes, like the one involving Lumer carrying a live chicken in a sack to the shochet (slaughter), an almost folkloric quality. The later recollections vividly reveal the horrific absurdity of war.

A simple, disciplined, and affecting addition to the genre of Holocaust memoirs.

Pub Date: May 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-80577-0

Page Count: 193

Publisher: Temple Hill Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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Naughty good fun from an impossibly sardonic rogue, quickly rising to Twainian stature.

ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY

The undisputed champion of the self-conscious and the self-deprecating returns with yet more autobiographical gems from his apparently inexhaustible cache (Naked, 1997, etc.).

Sedaris at first mines what may be the most idiosyncratic, if innocuous, childhood since the McCourt clan. Here is father Lou, who’s propositioned, via phone, by married family friend Mrs. Midland (“Oh, Lou. It just feels so good to . . . talk to someone who really . . . understands”). Only years later is it divulged that “Mrs. Midland” was impersonated by Lou’s 12-year-old daughter Amy. (Lou, to the prankster’s relief, always politely declined Mrs. Midland’s overtures.) Meanwhile, Mrs. Sedaris—soon after she’s put a beloved sick cat to sleep—is terrorized by bogus reports of a “miraculous new cure for feline leukemia,” all orchestrated by her bitter children. Brilliant evildoing in this family is not unique to the author. Sedaris (also an essayist on National Public Radio) approaches comic preeminence as he details his futile attempts, as an adult, to learn the French language. Having moved to Paris, he enrolls in French class and struggles endlessly with the logic in assigning inanimate objects a gender (“Why refer to Lady Flesh Wound or Good Sir Dishrag when these things could never live up to all that their sex implied?”). After months of this, Sedaris finds that the first French-spoken sentiment he’s fully understood has been directed to him by his sadistic teacher: “Every day spent with you is like having a cesarean section.” Among these misadventures, Sedaris catalogs his many bugaboos: the cigarette ban in New York restaurants (“I’m always searching the menu in hope that some courageous young chef has finally recognized tobacco as a vegetable”); the appending of company Web addresses to television commercials (“Who really wants to know more about Procter & Gamble?”); and a scatological dilemma that would likely remain taboo in most households.

Naughty good fun from an impossibly sardonic rogue, quickly rising to Twainian stature.

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-316-77772-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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