I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Bending Toward The Sun by Leslie Gilbert-Lurie
Published by HarperCollins on 2010-09-07
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, History, Holocaust, Jewish, Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
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A miraculous lesson in courage and recovery, Bending Toward the Suntells the story of a unique family bond forged in the wake of brutal terror. Weaving together the voices of three generations of women, Leslie Gilbert-Lurie and her mother, Rita Lurie, provide powerful — and inspiring — evidence of the resilience of the human spirit, relevant to every culture in every corner of the world. By turns unimaginably devastating and incredibly uplifting, this firsthand account of survival and psychological healing offers a strong, poignant message of hope in our own uncertain times.
Rita Lurie was five years old when she was forced to flee her home in Poland to hide from the Nazis. From the summer of 1942 to mid-1944, she and fourteen members of her family shared a nearly silent existence in a cramped, dark attic, subsisting on scraps of raw food. Young Rita watched helplessly as first her younger brother then her mother died before her eyes. Motherless and stateless, Rita and her surviving family spent the next five years wandering throughout Europe, waiting for a country to accept them. The tragedy of the Holocaust was only the beginning of Rita's story.
Decades later, Rita, now a mother herself, is the matriarch of a close-knit family in California. Yet in addition to love, Rita unknowingly passes to her children feelings of fear, apprehension, and guilt. Her daughter Leslie, an accomplished lawyer, media executive, and philanthropist, began probing the traumatic events of her mother's childhood to discover how Rita's pain has affected not only Leslie's life and outlook but also her own daughter, Mikaela's.
A decade-long collaboration between mother and daughter, Bending Toward the Sun reveals how deeply the Holocaust remains in the hearts and minds of survivors, influencing even the lives of their descendants. It also sheds light on the generational reach of any trauma, beyond the initial victim. Drawing on interviews with the other survivors and with the Polish family who hid five-year-old Rita, this book brings together the stories of three generations of women — mother, daughter, and granddaughter — to understand the legacy that unites, inspires, and haunts them all.
If the sins of the father are visited upon the son, then are the sorrows of the mother to be carried on by the daughter? Reading Bending Toward The Sun by Leslie Gilbert-Lurie has made me ponder this. Bending Toward The Sun starts out with the narration of Rita, Leslie’s mother. Rita and some of her family members survived the Holocaust by hiding in the attic of a family friend. Rita’s tale is fascinating, I can’t help but ache for her. To be honest, I did cry a bit while reading her story. Eventually Leslie takes up the narration, and the rest of the memoir is about how Rita’s Holocaust survivor status has affected her life. For instance, Leslie experience severe separation anxiety growing up. She also felt pressured to become an overachiever.
I think the writing could have been a bit better, but I realize that Lurie isn’t a writer. She’s a television executive/consultant. I guess I don’t expect the narrative to be as good as that of someone who writes for a living. Interspersed throughout the book were photographs which I felt would have been less awkward if there had been some pages in the middle for them, or an appendix.
Reading Bending Toward The Sun has made me think about how some mayÂ perceiveÂ the Holocaust. Obviously, we all have learned about the horrors during the time period. What about after? I mean, do we picture those who have lived through hell as ambling back home and living the same life as before. I suppose I make that mistake from time to time. Rather, surviving the Holocaust had a lasting mental effect on Rita Lurie, who battled depression her whole life. It sucks that something like this robbed someone of something so precious, childhood. I understand Rita wanted to give her children the best possible childhood, but it seems her neurosis also affected her children. After finishing this book, I wouldn’t mind reading more about the children of Holocaust survivors, as it will help to expand my understanding of the impact of such a tragedy.
I would suggest a glass of kosher wine while reading this book. Drink to l’chaim, drink to hope and strength in darkness. While much of Bending Toward the Sun is dark, it’s ultimately about the strength of family ties and how much the past forms what we are today.