Sunday, June 27, 2010

Broken Birds : The Story of My Momila - Jeannette Katzir

Summary: Channa will evade Nazi Soldiers and survive WWII by the age of twelve. The consequences will be that her 5 children will fight for their own survival with---each other.

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 principle 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 Jaclyn 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 maladies of heart and mind that those broken by war, inevitably and unintentionally pass down to the generations that follow. (Summary from back of the book and image from http://levinejudaica.com/ - Book given free for review)

My Review: I received this book free for review--free books rock! I've been pondering how to explain my thinking about this book and have come up with this analogy. Although I realize it probably fits best with my experience, I'm sure some of you will understand my meaning. Reading Broken Birds, The Story of My Momila is like running a marathon. You're glad you did it. It was long. It took dedication and hard work, but at least for me, I'll never do it again. It was painful. Too painful to want to read a second time. There were many times I wanted to put it down because the fighting between the siblings was just so sad and depressing I didn't want to know how it could get worse...and you know it's supposed to get worse because it says so in the opening chapter. It seems so awful that siblings would fight so bitterly. Their relationships are so horrible because of their own actions, and yet they still can't seem to stop. Maybe I'm alone in my desire to not read things that make me sad, but that is truthfully the reason I didn't give this book a higher rating than 3.5. Am I glad I read it? Yes. Have I learned a lot from it? Yes. But, you know my thoughts on the matter.

I've read books about Holocaust survivors, but I have never read a book about how their trauma affected their families post war. This book explores their broken lives in great detail and how it ruined or almost ruined their children's lives. I learned quite a bit. In fact, detail is something Jeannette Katzir does very well. I liked her writing style; it lures me in and has a nice pace. Because of this, I had the hardest time separating the book from what I kept picturing was an exact depiction of her life. I knew it wasn't the case, and yet I found myself again and again thinking she was Jaclyn. This is evidence of her ability to make the story so real. The details did, at times, start to feel a bit overdone. Although I can't help but wonder if this was the author's intent--it does help make the impression that everything was quite painful (therefore achieving her purpose). I also learned more about Jewish culture and customs. It was interesting to read about the strict Jewish characters and compare them to the more relaxed characters. I don't have any close personal friends who are Jewish, so I felt like I was getting a glimpse into the modern Jewish world I've never had the chance to see.

I do believe there is a valuable lesson to either be learned or reinforced from reading this book: try not to pass your emotional baggage onto your children. This is easier said than done, but a good reminder nonetheless.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about the survivors of the Holocaust, those interested in Jewish history, those interested in post-war trauma and its effects on families, and anyone who simply wants more information about WWII from a different perspective. It is a fairly clean read with very little swearing although there is one f-bomb (maybe a handful of times with the others).

Rating: 3.5 Stars--because it was just so painful.

Sum it up: A detailed depiction of the myriad of ways WWII damaged the people who lived through it and how they unintentionally damaged their own children.

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