December 30, 2013
Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
My dear friend, Erin, from I'm Lovin' Lit - you probably know her, was looking for book recommendations last week. Specifically, she said she was interested in more Holocaust fiction.
Being quite the Holocaust connoisseur myself, I decided to rise to the challenge and help her find a book. If you know Erin at all, you know this is not an easy feat because she reads EVERYTHING!
I started by listing some of My Suggestions for Holocaust Fiction:
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (My favorite book of 2013)
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli
Between Shades of Gray by Rita Sepetys
Someone Named Eva by Joan M. Wolf
Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy
The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
But, as I predicted, she was already familiar with this list. So, the I made it a personal mission to find a new book for her. After some online research, I found it... Someone Like Us by Jenna Blum.
Here's the summary from Good Reads:
For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy's sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald.
Driven by the guilt of her heritage, Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother's life.
Combining a passionate, doomed love story, a vivid evocation of life during the war, and a poignant mother/daughter drama, Those Who Save Us is a profound exploration of what we endure to survive and the legacy of shame.
What drove me to this book was the fact that it was a lesser-told story. Instead of another novel from the perspective of a Jewish survivor (not that I don't love those, in case you can't tell by the list above), this book tells the story of a German woman... and I don't mean one who took major risks to save a Jew either. Anna's story was about survival by any means necessary and because of those who helped, regardless of their motives.
All three of us (my mom read it too) really enjoyed this book. I should warn you that there are some very graphic details that were, unfortunately, the reality during this time period. I wouldn't recommend this particular book to any of my students because of the mature content, but I definitely suggest it for any of my adult friends.