Synopses & Reviews
In this rich and riveting narrative, a writer's search for the truth behind his family's tragic past in World War II becomes a remarkably original epic — part memoir, part reportage, part mystery, and part scholarly detective work — that brilliantly explores the nature of time and memory, family and history.
The Lost begins as the story of a boy who grew up in a family haunted by the disappearance of six relatives during the Holocaust — an unmentionable subject that gripped his imagination from earliest childhood. Decades later, spurred by the discovery of a cache of desperate letters written to his grandfather in 1939 and tantalized by fragmentary tales of a terrible betrayal, Daniel Mendelsohn sets out to find the remaining eyewitnesses to his relatives' fates. That quest eventually takes him to a dozen countries on four continents, and forces him to confront the wrenching discrepancies between the histories we live and the stories we tell. And it leads him, finally, back to the small Ukrainian town where his family's story began, and where the solution to a decades-old mystery awaits him.
Deftly moving between past and present, interweaving a world-wandering odyssey with childhood memories of a now-lost generation of immigrant Jews and provocative ruminations on biblical texts and Jewish history, The Lost transforms the story of one family into a profound, morally searching meditation on our fragile hold on the past. Deeply personal, grippingly suspenseful, and beautifully written, this literary tour de force illuminates all that is lost, and found, in the passage of time.
"As a boy in the 1960s, Mendelsohn could make elderly relatives cry just by entering the room, so much did he resemble his great-uncle Shmiel Jger, who had been 'killed by the Nazis.' This short phrase was all Mendelsohn knew of his maternal grandfather Abraham's brother, who had remained with his wife and four daughters in the Ukrainian shtetl of Bolechow after Abraham left for America. Long obsessed with family history, Mendelsohn (The Elusive Embrace) embarked in 2001 on a series of journeys to learn exactly what had happened to Shmiel and his family. The result is a rich, ruminative 'mythic narrative... about closeness and distance, intimacy and violence, love and death.' Mendelsohn uses these words to describe the biblical story of Cain and Abel, for one of the book's most striking elements is the author's recounting of the book of Genesis in parallel with his own story, highlighting eternal themes of origins and family, temptation and exile, brotherly betrayal, creation and annihilation. In Ukraine, Australia, Israel and Scandinavia, Mendelsohn locates a handful of extraordinary, aged Bolechow survivors. Especially poignant is his relationship with novelist Louis Begley's 90-year-old mother, from a town near the shtetl, an irascible, scene-stealing woman who eagerly follows Mendelsohn's remarkable effort to retrieve her lost world. B&w photos, maps. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"More than just the discovery of lost relatives, however, his journey serves as an exposé of the memory of those who mourn the dead and of the dead who have no one left to mourn them....[T]he book illustrates the enduring legacy of the Holocaust in contemporary Jewish life." Library Journal
"Mendelsohn's tenacious yet artistic, penetrating, and empathic work of remembrance recalibrates our perception of the Holocaust and of human nature." Booklist
In this rich and riveting narrative, a writer's search for the truth behind his family's tragic past in World War II becomes a remarkably original epic—part memoir, part reportage, part mystery, and part scholarly detective work—that brilliantly explores the nature of time and memory, family and history.
About the Author
Daniel Mendelsohn was born on Long Island and educated at the University of Virginia and at Princeton. He is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books as well as the New York Times Magazine and the New York Times Book Review, and is a contributing editor at Travel + Leisure. His first book, The Elusive Embrace, was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. He teaches at Bard College.
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