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.)
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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 RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved