Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Alice's Review: Bending Toward the Sun

Bending Toward the Sun: A Mother and Daughter MemoirSummary:  The lasting impact of the Holocaust on a survivor and her daughter emerges in this joint account by Lurie-Gilbert and her mother. Lurie was five when a farmer agreed to hide her along with 14 Polish-Jewish relatives in his attic in exchange for jewelry and furs. While in hiding, Lurie witnessed the Nazis shoot a cousin and an uncle; her younger brother and mother died in the stifling, stinking hideout (years later her daughter, Gilbert-Lurie, wonders if the boy was smothered to quiet him and if her grandmother died of a broken heart). After the war, in an Italian DP camp, Lurie's father remarried to a stepmother Lurie resented; her father became increasingly depressed and remote when their fractured and traumatized family relocated to Chicago; and deep depressions haunted Lurie's own otherwise happy marriage. Gilbert-Lurie in turn recalls her mother's overprotectiveness, her career as a TV executive, a 1988 visit to her mother's childhood village and her own guilt, anxiety and sadness. Although the voices and experiences expressed are valuable, the writing is adequate at best, with none of the luminosity of Anne Frank, to whom Gilbert-Lurie compares her mother. Publishers Weekly

Review:  This has to be one of the most unique memoirs I have ever read.  It's a joint effort between Leslie Gilbert-Lurie and her mom, Holocaust survivor, Rita Lurie.  What drew me toward Bending Toward the Sun is the detail that Mrs. Gilbert-Lurie in particular describes the dynamic of her family and the effect the Holocaust continues to have on them.   The underlying theme of this memoir is whether grief and fear could be transferred from generation to generation.  If that is true, I think it's safe to say that strength and courage is transferable too.

Mrs. Lurie is truly inspiring.  She is a survivor in every sense of the word.  She is a woman who never had a childhood, who suffered such shocking loss at such a young age, yet learned to live a life full of joy.  She took what she was given and made the best of it.  She lived.  I enjoyed reading both her account of her time during the war and also her daughter's memories of her.  She was so brutally honest with herself at times, it was heartbreaking to read.  She moved me to tears during her bouts of depression.  I wanted to jump into the pages, lay down next her, cry into the pillow with her and comfort her in the way she needed but wouldn't allow anyone to give her. 

Mrs. Gilbert-Lurie did justice to her family.  I have been fascinated by World War II for some time now however this is the first time I read a memoir from a Holocaust survivors point of view.  She did a fantastic job of writing in a way that pity for Gamss family is the farthest thing from my mind.  I was honored to get to know a family who did everything in their power to protect each other, to care for each other.  This family did everything it took to survive and instill that will to survive in them all.

My favorite part came towards the end of Bending Toward the Sun during an assembly held by Mrs. Lurie to her grandson Gabe's school. 

"The main message she tried to communicate was that while life was rarely perfect, individuals had the strength inside to overcome setbacks, to love instead of hate, and to influence others to be better human beings...(she) urged the students not to go along with what they knew was wrong, mean or destructive to themselves or others."

And that is how you survive.

Final Take:  4/5

A special thank you to Julie Harabedian  of FSB Associates for providing me with this wonderful memoir.



Julie October 20, 2010 at 10:12 AM  

You need to read All but My Life by Gerda Klein Weissmann. It's a memoir of her journey in the camps during WWII.

This sounds like a powerful book.

Anna October 20, 2010 at 1:17 PM  

I thought this was a fascinating memoir, especially how the Holocaust affects the children and grandchildren of survivors. I hope it's okay to link to your review on War Through the Generations.

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