Synopses & Reviews
In a unique, intensely moving memoir, Erin Einhorn finds the family in Poland who saved her mother from the holocaust. But instead of a joyful reunion, Erin unearths a dispute that forces her to navigate the increasingly bitter crossroads between memory and truth.
To a young newspaper reporter, it was the story of a lifetime: a Jewish infant born in the ghetto, saved from the Nazis by a Polish family, uprooted to Sweden after the war, repeatedly torn away from the people she knew as family -- all to take a transatlantic journey with a father she'd barely known toward a new life in the United States.
Who wouldn't want to tell that tale? Growing up in suburban Detroit, Erin Einhorn pestered her mother to share details about the tumultuous, wartime childhood she'd experienced. "I was always loved," was all her mother would say, over and over again. But, for Erin, that answer simply wasn't satisfactory. She boarded a plane to Poland with a singular mission: to uncover the truth of what happened to her mother and reunite the two families who once worked together to save a child. But when Erin finds Wieslaw Skowronski, the elderly son of the woman who sheltered her mother, she discovers that her search will involve much more than just her mother's childhood.
Sixty years prior, at the end of World War II, Wieslaw Skowronski claimed that Erin's grandfather had offered the Skowronskis his family home in exchange for hiding his daughter. But for both families, the details were murky. If the promise was real, fulfilling it would be arduous and expensive. To unravel the truth and resolve the decades-old land dispute, Erin must search through centuries of dusty records and maneuver an outdated, convoluted legal system.
As she tries to help the Skowronski family, Erin must also confront the heart-wrenching circumstances of her family's tragic past while coping with unexpected events in her own life that will alter her mission completely.
Six decades after two families were brought together by history, Erin is forced to separate the facts from the glimmers of fiction handed down in the stories of her ancestors. In this extraordinariy intimate memoir, journalist Erin Einhorn overcomes seemingly insurmountable barriers -- legal, financial, and emotional -- only to question her own motives and wonder how far she should go to right the wrongs of the past.
In this extraordinarily moving memoir, Einhorn finds the family in Poland that had saved her mother from the Holocaust and stumbles upon a decades-old land dispute that leads her to ask: How far should one go to rectify the past? 8-pages of b&w photos.
About the Author
Erin Einhorn is a reporter for the New York Daily News where she's covered New York City's government and the nation's largest public school system. She has written for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and Fortune. A contributor to public radio's This American Life, Einhorn and her story were the basis for one of the show's most popular episodes. She lives in New York City.
Reading Group Guide
1. Erin's discoveries led her to question her family stories. Do you feel that family stories are likely to be historically inaccurate? If so, why do you think that is?
2. Did your impression of Wieslaw Skowronski's change? Was your opinion about his family (Marta and Helen) different as the book progressed?
3. Why do you think Erin was so passionate about finding out the truth of what happened to her mom? Do you believe she would have acted with the same drive if her mom hadn't been diagnosed with cancer?
4. Why do you think Erin didn't tell Wieslaw about her mother's illness and death? What do you think would have occurred differently if she had told him the truth?
5. Erin points out that young Polish people are fascinated with Jewish culture. Do you think that exists in American culture for a mainstream group to be curious about an outside group of some kind?
6. What do you think was the most interesting discovery Erin made?
7. When Helen asks about Jews eating blood-filled cake, Krys is more offended than Erin is. Why do you think Krys took more offense?
8. The experience Erin had in Sweden with Fannie couldn't have been more different than her experience with Wieslaw. Why do you think they differed so much?
9. How did you feel about Wieslaw's reaction to Erin's mother's death? Was it rude?
10. Erin's last experience with Wieslaw changed her opinion about wanting to live in Poland. Why do you think that moment affected her so much?
11. Frequently it turns out that commonly accepted family history turns out to be family myth. Why do you think this is? Has this happened to you?
12. How would you have reacted if you were in Erin's situation? Would you have continued to spend money, time, and energy on the children of the woman who saved your mother's life? Why or why not?
13. How long does a family debt last? What sacrifices are necessary?