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The Border of Truth: A Novel Hardcover – March 13, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; First Edition edition (March 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582433666
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582433660
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,200,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1940, Itzak Lejdel, a teenage Jewish refugee from Brussels being held aboard a ship docked in Virginia, is one of 86 passengers whose visas have been rejected and are about to be returned to Nazi-occupied Europe. Itzak writes a series of pleas to Eleanor Roosevelt to intervene, filling his letters with colorful rumors about fellow passengers, endearing details about the movies he loves and his adolescent crushes, as well as harrowing tales about his family's flight from the Nazis. The correspondence alternates with the 2003 story of Itzak's daughter, Sara, a 41-year-old single professor with a penchant for married lovers who's in the process of adopting a war-refugee child. This milestone, coupled with Sara's chance encounter with a woman who knows more about Sara's family history than Sara does, compels Sara to look into her family's hidden past: did Itzak abandon a sickly mother to pursue his own freedom, and what was the fate of Itzak's father? Redel (Loverboy) offers a welcome and fresh perspective on the well-trod subject of the Holocaust, and though Sara can grate (she acknowledges early on that she sounds "like someone on a moral high horse"), young Itzak's joie de vivre perfectly counterbalances her self-importance. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Do you really want to uncover those family secrets and lies? At 41, Sara, an academic in Manhattan, registers with an international adoption agency, and she is required to provide her family history. She knows her loving, widowed father, Richard, came to the U.S. as a Holocaust refugee in the 1940s, but he does not talk about it. What is he holding back? Part of the answer comes in his alternating narrative as Itzak Lejdel, 17, on board a Portuguese refugee ship in 1940. He writes letters to Eleanor Roosevelt, begging her to help him get a visa, talking about family, movies, girls, and about the threat of being refused entry and sent back to Nazi-occupied Europe. The alternating narratives are sometimes distracting, but as the family mystery builds to a climax, the revelations of love, guilt, betrayal, loss, and denial are haunting. As is the realization that "there is so much now Sarah knows she doesn't know." And doesn't want to know. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ursiform TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book, and will recommend it, but with some reservation.

The story is a juxtaposition of two threads: The first is a series of letter written--but not sent--to Eleanor Roosevelt by a teenage refugee on a ship off Virgina from which he hoped to gain entry to the US in 1940. The second is a third person account of his daughter's attempts to penetrate her father's past to provide a family story in anticipation of adopting a daughter forty-three years later. The letters progressively reveal more of the "truth", while in the daughter's story she slowly ferrets out the same facts.

So far, so good. The interplay and pacing of the two parts is excellent, and the general approach works. Only some details bother me. The letters become more adolescent in the middle of the story, although that might be argued to be understandable in terms of the stress the boy was under. Some of the daughter's actions are harder to accept. Professor about to adopt a baby finds happiness with the furniture repair man? Well ...

Ultimately it was a good story, but I finished it not understanding either the father or daughter. The author never provided a sufficiently compelling psychology of either of her protagonists to answer the question "why?". It would have been less of a problem had the novel been less ambitious and the author obviously less talented, but I'm left with the feeling that Redel should be capable of more.

I do think she's an author to watch.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Melinda Fine on April 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. There are so many different layers of stories here - stories one tells one's loved ones, stories one tells the public, stories one tells oneself, stories one tells one's reader - and there are so many different ways these stories are told - through letters, conversation, translation, and more. Redel weaves different narratives together seamlessly, getting us caught up in the emotional truth of each one even as we learn, bit by bit, that things are not at all what they seem.

There are many ways we learn about big historical events. While this author obviously fictionalizes characters and events on this ship's journey, her characters help us understand how people make sense of what becomes history in their every day lives, and the enduring psychological imprint historical events leave on us - and our children.

A beautiful, haunting, and deeply engrossing read!

Melinda Fine, Ed.D.

New York University
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michael D. Weinstein on May 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
One of those rare stories, beautifully written and totally absorbing. What do we really know about our parents, and choices they faced before we were born, in a different world? Victoria Redel's novel works on mulitiple levels, her characters are vibrant and alive. I can't wait for her next book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Cordon on May 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is an excellent take on a very different Holocaust story. Taking into account the impact that that time and place had on the future generations of a survivor's family. A hopeful and sorrowful story wrapped into one.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ken "Bonecrusher" L. on May 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sophisticated and at the same time very approachable, Redel's writing style and the innovative structure of this book make for an easy and yet gripping read. Hard to put down, but also broken into small enough chunks that you can pick it up for just a few minutes of guilty pleasure.
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