From Publishers Weekly
In her first book, teacher and activist Huber reaches across time and space to find guidance and camaraderie in the reconstructed life of Heina Buschmann, the German grandfather she never met. Struggling to balance her personal and political lives, Huber looks to Heina to find out why she so burns to change the world, and what her sense of mission will cost her and her newborn child. Born in 1902 to a union coal miner, Heina devoted his life to German socialist movements in much the same way Huber devotes hers to American leftist activism. And just as anxiety, depression and exhaustion accompany Huber's political highs, failure, frustrations and alienation accompanied Heina's. In his world-a sooty Germany awash in communist, socialist, and fascist movements-we feel the urgency and impact of personal politics as history gathers the factions in its maelstrom. Although the imagined dialogue sometimes falls flat, the family relationships and political situations are wrought finely enough to illustrate what's at stake for Heina. Unfortunately there are so many gaps in the portrait Huber paints of her own political world that the reader is left wondering about her own motivation.
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Huber is an essayist, professor, and activist for causes ranging from saving old-growth forests to getting out of Iraq. Seeking guidance in blending activism and family life, she is drawn to the life of her grandfather Heina Buschman, a German socialist and anti-Nazi activist her mother, Gerhild, once dismissed as a “nobody.” The result is a narrative Huber labels a “nonfiction novel.” It reads like fiction but is comprised of real scenes from her own life alternating with scenes from her grandfather’s life, all grounded in extensive research and enriched by family anecdotes. Huber traces the threads of her grandfather’s life from his initial interest in the Independent Social Democratic Party to his service in World War II as a “noncombatant” and his postwar anticommunist efforts, which left little time for his family, hence her mother’s resentment. Huber repeatedly draws parallels between her grandfather’s efforts and hers—between his probable periods of despair and her “political depression,” especially following 9/11. The result is thoughtful discourse on political activism and the toll exacted from those dedicated to unpopular causes. --Deborah Donovan