Simple and lovely. I have no idea how I missed this one as a child; I certainly read enough Holocaust literature, much of it overwrought. This would have stood out. She captures the child's eye view perfectly, all focused on the minutia of day to day--where will I find shoes? where will I find books? how will I make friends at this strange new school?--and almost but not quite oblivious to the terrible currents in the background.
When the end came, and Esther wanted to stay in Siberia and make a life there rather than face the great unknown, my heart broke for her.
The beginning was a little rough to sink into; young Esther is so privileged, and so oblivious to her privilege, that the whining starts to grate. But the author is clearly aware of how unbearable her child-self can be (which, to be clear, is no more unbearable than most child-selves; I've read my childhood diaries, I know how much I
whined, and for far less cause), and she moves through it quickly. And it's important to have that glimpse of shining prosperity, to remind us what's been lost, before we plunge into the war years.
Because no review of mine would be complete without a complaint, though, I do want to bitch about the cover quotes. "Rare"? No. This is a remarkable common story. Hundreds of thousands of Polish Jews made Esther's journey and lived to tell the tale--far more than survived by staying in Poland and hiding in the attics or factories of their kindly gentile neighbors. But it's the latter stories we like to tell, in America, because they emphasize Christian goodness. If you want the stories of Jews who struggled through impossible conditions on their own, you often need to turn to unpublished survivor interviews and narratives. I am glad this book bucks that trend; I am glad this book was
published, and widely so at that. But that doesn't make it a rare story.