Broken Birds: The Story of My Momila
Author: Jeannette Katzir
Ebook: read on a Nook (paperback 340 pages)
Publication Date: April 2009
FTC: received from the author
A long while back I was contacted by Jeannette Katzir to see if I wanted to read her book Broken Birds. Normally I would be a little hesitant to read a self published book but I've actually read a good review or two and thought it sounded really interesting (check out Book Nest and Book Worm's reviews. You can also check out some other reviews on her website). Anyway, it took me way too long to get around to reading it because I had accepted the Ebook version. Back when I said yes, I was around a computer a LOT more than I am now. So I finally decided to borrow a Nook and check it out.
Here's the book's summary on Goodreads:
World War II has long since ended, and yet Jaclyn and her four brothers and sisters grow up learning to survive it. Having lived through the Holocaust on the principles of constant distrust, their mother, Channa, dutifully teaches her children to cling to one another while casting a suspicious eye to the outside world. When Channa dies, the unexpected contents of her will force her adult children to face years of suppressed indignation. For Jacyln and her siblings, the greatest war will not be against strangers, but against one another. Broken Birds: The Story of My Momila is Jeannette Katzir's achingly honest memoir of the enduring effects of war. From her parents' harrowing experiences during the Holocaust to her own personal battles, Katzir exposes the maladies of heart and mind that those broken by war, inevitably and unintentionally pass down to the generations that follow.
I have to say that I was very torn reading this. The beginning of the book describes Jeannette's mother and father's experiences during WWII as Jewish victims of the Nazi regime. Jeannette's mother Channa escapes a Jewish ghetto with her brother to join a resistance group surviving in the woods. Jeannette's father survives a concentration camp and both immigrate to America.
I'll have to say the beginning gripped me. Wow. The stories of these two surviving in almost impossible ways just caught me. Wow. The story is narrative so there is not much dialogue but it works. I still remember her father's predicament of being released from the camp but then what. He has to find a place to live AND work in a foreign country with only the camp clothes on his back. Wow. I guess I never imagined what happened to all those survivors once they were freed.
I had a harder time with the rest of the book. It describes the couple's immigration to America, how they met and married, and then once the children arrive it's from Jaclyn's perspective. She has four brothers and sisters and what a mess. Even though the family does an amazing job of starting prosperous business ventures, they also fight over money and business. This just reminds me of not mixing family and business. It gets messy.
So the main story is the mess of a family, which gets even worse when Channa passes away. Her father is left alone and only then does the family realize how much Channa kept control of EVERYTHING. Hoarding money around the house, splitting up saving in a multitude of banks...it's as if she believed that the Nazis would return.
And I guess while reading this strange novel of waring siblings and messed up family relationships, I found myself struggling...but I kept going back to this story. And I'll admit that this story has stuck with me more than any other holocaust novel I've ever read. The reason is that it is blatantly apparent that while the parents survived the holocaust, mentally no one survived. The damage that was done to the body and mind, the fear and paranoia, survived and was passed down to the next generation. For this reason I find that this is an amazing story. A story of the absolute destruction and damage that was wrought on a whole people and their descendants that didn't end in 1945.
Definitely recommended as a book club read if you'd like some interesting discussions.
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