The other day I braved reading a Holocaust oriented book. It was one of the many books I had picked up at the Friend’s of the Library bookstore a few months back. Among the other purchases I stacked the book on an overflowing shelf and promptly pretended not to pay attention to it.
Then last week when I had finished yet another of the miles of books I consume, I decided that it was time to give a Jewish book a shot regardless of whether it would end up on this blog.
The thing is reading it for last few days has made me more eager to share what I’ve learned than not. “Mosaic” by Diane Armstrong is an unassuming family saga. With her Anglo sounding name I hadn’t anticipated a story of a Polish Jewish family at the turn of the century. There is the deeply Orthodox father who divorces a beloved wife of 10 years because she is barren and he desperately wants children to pass on his beliefs to. There is his much younger 2nd wife who gives him the 11 children he wants, and yet doesn’t ultimately have much time for any of them. And then there are the eleven children who in the shadow of the Holocaust end up in Brazil, Australia, US and dead. The story is a mosaic of the author’s own recollections, memoirs of her father (one of the 11), and countless direct quotes with her aunts and uncles and cousins about the family, about Jewish life prewar, the varied stories of their survival and of course the stories of those lost.
It’s a better read than I expected and the flow of the story with both chronological third person narrative and direct quotes appeals to me more than I had thought. It is also not a Holocaust story. It was very unfair for me to categorize it as such. In reality it’s a Jewish story, a family story, a survival story. It’s a story wth universal appeal because after all we all have a family. We all have our stories.