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Open Heart
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60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Elie Wiesel has produced many excellent works of fiction and nonfiction. Most of them are in whole or in part related to his experiences as a Holocaust survivor. Open Heart is very different.

This book is equal parts memoir, treatise, and affirmation of faith as Mr. Wiesel faces sudden death from cardiovascular disease and open heart surgery.

At age 82, in June of 2011, Wiesel is rushed to a hospital with severe coronary artery disease. He has several blocked arteries that only open-heart surgery can resolve. Suddenly faced with the prospect of death, Mr. Wiesel reflects upon his life, his experiences during the Holocaust, and his life since the Shoah.

As he is wheeled into the operating room, he reminisces about the terrifying agony of his imprisonment in the Holocaust, his survival, and the glorious wonders of life, love, family, and work left undone.

Mr. Wiesel comprehends the gravity of his abruptly serious health issue, which frightens his wife and son as much as himself. He gazes into his past, filled with trepidation, gloom, and death.

Virtually everyone he loved as a young man had been murdered by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. It was the darkest portion of his life and of humanity's existence. Unexpectedly he is once more threatened with losing everyone he loved.

A devout Jew, Mr. Wiesel wonders how God could allow millions of His children to become Holocaust victims. He considers, as had so many of his peers in Nazi death camps, how God could have turned away. Where is God, Elie Wiesel wonders? How could He abandon us? How could He allow so many generations of devout families to be murdered?

Admitting that there are no easy or swift answers to such questions, Mr. Wiesel proffers cryptic responses, such as, "It is not for us to decide how or why God acts." Or "God exists within the questions as well as the actions."

In the end, Mr. Wiesel can deliver no coherent meaning from the Holocaust. He seeks a different direction for salvation. During his recovery from heart surgery, his little grandson asks, "If I loved you more, would you be in less pain?" Mr. Wiesel realizes at that moment that "God is smiling as He contemplates His creation."

Mr. Wiesel proclaims he is part of a generation abandoned by God and betrayed by mankind. He reflects how humans have attained "perfection in cruelty." He wonders how humans could have attained such a dichotomy of normalcy, "for the killers, the torturers, it is normal, thus human, to act inhumanely. Should one therefore turn away from humanity?"

These ethical bombshells remain for the reader to scrutinize, while no logical conclusion is apparent from the author. He later resolves "It is up to each of us to choose between the violence of adults and the smiles of children, between the ugliness of hate and will to oppose it."

Speaking from experience, he tells us "even in darkness it is possible to create light and encourage compassion. It is possible to feel free inside a prison. Even in exile, friendship exists and can become an anchor. In one instant before dying, man remains immortal."

Mr. Wiesel believes in man in spite of man. He believes each of us can use words to wound or to console, to curse or to heal, to comprehend or disregard, just as "Illness may diminish me, but it will not destroy me." He proffers that, "the body is not eternal, but the idea of the soul is. The brain will be buried, but memory will survive it."

"Such is the miracle," is how Wiesel closes his thoughts. A tale of despair becomes a tale against despair. He finds singular beauty in the smile and love of his grandson that his misery over the Holocaust is diminished.

Yet what are we to believe about Holocaust survivors who have no loving family members? Can such despair be overcome when the survivor has no adoring grandchildren?

Elie Wiesel delivers a message of hope and tolerance in Open Heart. A successful husband, father, grandfather, teacher, and writer, he is an asset to humankind. He has turned despondency into a message of approval and optimism.

Mr. Wiesel packages equal parts beauty and astonishing description in an impossibly concise manner. Few authors have possessed such capacity for succinctness and brevity with magnificent dexterity.

At 82 and ill, Mr. Wiesel remains a powerful ambassador of tolerance and hope, for humanity will always require this message, a bright light in the darkness of despair, a signpost on humanity's road toward destruction and "turn to tolerance and survive."

This is Elie Wiesel's eternal message. We are each a spark of light in the darkness of destruction.

Reviewer Charles S. Weinblatt is the author of the popular Holocaust novel, "Jacob's Courage."
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
In this slight memoir focused on his cardiac event, "Open Heart," Elie Wiesel opens his heart which opens his soul and in turn his mind to his readers and students. With touching transparency and vulnerability, Wiesel reveals himself and the deeper inner dialogue with his life. His carefully chosen words and personal reflections invoke the preacher of Ecclesiastes, the conscience of Job, and the passions of Jeremiah. Wiesel's loyal readers and students savor his existential quests in his first memoir,and his novels and plays but all the more we celebrate the rich, instructive, and edifying teaching in this manner of communicating what matters in life; a communication so accessible, so real, so tender, and so profoundly personal. His writings will continue to invite humanity into ever more purposeful striving for justice and peace, for unconditional inclusion and the radical containment of hate, but "Open Heart" has a fresh, new cadence, a fresh, new intimacy, and a deeply personal summons to choose life and blessing, gratitude and love. The wake up that came from Wiesel's cardiac event is told in such a way as to awaken us to a conscious embrace and awareness of the lives we live. Thank you and bless you, Elie Wiesel. Doug Huneke
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
As a former high school English teacher I had taught Wiesel's "Night" years ago. Also, I have tried to keep in touch with his growth and career. His confrontation of likely death is insightful and moving.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Death is such a mystery and Elie Wiesel admits that eventhough he has skirted the grim reaper many times he still is not ready to go to the other side. In Wiesel's book Open Heart he describes his latest health challenge in open heart surgery.
This book is one of reflection and reconciliation of life's challenges. Wiesel takes you in a deeply personal view of his fears , hopes, and challenges as he moves forward in his eighty-second year. He is not ready to give up and has much more to accomplish.
This book is an interesting account as one man reflects on his life and ponders the future. Dynamite comes in small packages and this book packs a punch of hope and draws on the inner wisdom of a man that personifies the power of making a difference.

By Dr. Wilson Trivino
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
As an Afro-American I can identify with the suffering that Night brings to light. This experience was very tragic as portrayed by very ignorant and evil people, families were torn apart. The Jews suffered greatly for years. In a similar situation African-Americans suffered over 300 years of hatred and prejudice and tore families apart as a result.
Our past experiences are similar and we should never forget. Only if we never forget can we be certain that it never happens again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
This short work opens with Elie Wiesel's description of a sudden medical crisis, and his need for Open Heart Surgery. It seems at first as if the whole book will be about this particular episode but after several pages this 'crisis' is resolved by successful surgery. Wiesel then engages in a reflection on his work and life, and on their meaning. In this reflection I believe he underestimates his own historical importance and the enormous contribution he has made to the Jewish people and to humanity. After all more than any other writer he is the one who made the world aware of the horrifying dimensions of the Shoah.(The Holocaust). His book 'Night' is one of the most powerful documents about human suffering ever written. It tells the story of his own experience in the death camps and on the death marches, of the loss of his family and his world. It is a poetic book of questioning and argument with God and at the same time a narrative of events overwhelming in their horror. After this book Wiesel became known throughout the world and worked tirelessly for years to diminish human suffering, to oppose racism, and genocide. His actions in regard to the freeing of Soviet Jewry were heroic, and he gave the people of Silence a voice which helped lead to their rescue.
In this work he writes in a summary fashion about a few of his more than fifty books. He writes too lovingly about his wife Marion, who has shared his life for over forty years and contributed so much to his well- being. He writes with love of his son and grandchildren and of what they mean to him.
Wiesel is a writer whose every perception seems charged with feeling. He is a legend in his own time and certainly one of the great voices for Humanity of the past half - century.
This small work gives the reader an opportunity to be once again in the presence of a truly holy man, one who seems to embody the spirit of many of the great Hasidism and teachers of the Jewish tradition he has often written and taught about.
Any book by Elie Wiesel is a gift and a blessing.This one in good poetic fashion is dense and rich, and gives much in a small number of pages.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I absolutely loved this book. I am a huge Elie Wiesel fan and this short book didn't disappoint. His way with words is truly inspiring and so descriptive you can clearly see the picture of his story. I recommend this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Eli Weisel shares the gift of his abiding soul and sustaining hope despite human atrocities and individual suffering. When forced by open heart surgery to be still and slow down, his message of faith and indomitable spirit embraces our humanity. WHEREVER you are in the journey of life, this short read is a gift which will keep faith and hope alive.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Like a blend of All Rivers Run to the Sea, And the Sea Is Never Full, and Day, Wiesel frames a concise memoir in the context of a pervasive medical tragedy. He traipses briefly through past epic moments, memories, rites of passage, and current obligations. He composes a note of gratitude and hope like drafting a sketch of his own epithet.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Loved the book and the honest and articulate feelings about this time in the author's life. I do wish it were longer.
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