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Regina's Closet: Finding My Grandmother's Secret Journal Hardcover – September 1, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Raab relates that this book is based on the journal her Jewish grandmother wrote in English in the late 1930s after her arrival in the U.S. The narrative begins with her childhood during World War I when she was 11 and ends with her immigration to the U.S. Regina Klein was born in Kalush, Galicia, in 1903 and killed herself when she was 61. Her journal describes the Austro-Hungarian invasion of Galicia in 1914, a cholera epidemic in 1915, Regina's escape from Galicia in 1916 after her mother's death, and her life as an orphan in Vienna. In 1997 Raab's mother gave her the journal, a transparent sheath filled with about 50 single-spaced typed pages "laden with strikeovers, awkward syntax, and numerous grammatical errors." Raab's impressions are interspersed with excerpts from the journal, offering a sensitive and penetrating image of their loving relationship. Cohen, George

Review

Regina's story is a compelling one. I feel lucky to be a shared recipient in the find of this journal. Finding the journal and writing this book seemed to be a cathartic process for the author. One that I think will yield more results that we, the readers, will enjoy in future books as we have with Regina's Closet. -April Sullivan for Reader Views

When is the last time you finished a book and cried, not out of joy or sadness, but because of the astonishing strength of the human spirit? This book is extraordinary on so many different levels I hardly know where to start. --BookReview.com
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Beaufort Books (September 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0825305756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0825305757
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,825,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By RJ McGill VINE VOICE on January 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Wow! What an incredible story. It's rare for me to "rave" or to liter my opinions with complimentary adjectives and yet, I have been exposed to a book that absolutely demands both...Regina's Closet: finding my grandmother's secret journal is hauntingly beautiful and filled with the kind of raw emotion that reaches out from the pages and touches the reader in a very tangible way.

Author, Diana Raab shares her grandmother's journal, which follows her difficult and frightening experiences in war torn Poland, events of World War I, witnessing the atrocities committed by soldiers, losing all the possessions, the Nazi invasion, the cramped trains evacuees spent weeks riding only to arrive in cities where the natives did not want them and had no reservations about expressing such in the most hurtful of ways. Even as a child, Regina was not sparred this degrading hostility. Over and over again she is forced to make adult decisions and each time her incredible strength and unusual ability to understand the ways of the world shines through the darkness that surrounded her. The family eventually immigrated to the United States and settled in Brooklyn, New York, where things remained tense between her grandparents, but Diana wouldn't realize until years later, while reading the journal the extent of her grandmother's marital unhappiness.

Meticulously and masterfully, Diana has woven her feelings, fears and experiences throughout this extraordinary narrative and the result is this once-in-a-lifetime novel.
Diana found strength and grace in those handwritten, time worn and yellowing pages.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am happy this book was a very quick read because it was very depressing. I have read dozens of book about Eastern European Jews and their survival from Pogroms to the Holocaust. It is my family story too. All are difficult reads but there is some joy to be found in them. Some uplifting moments that make the readers journey worthwhile.
This book is a long walk down a dark road with no detours or forks in the road for a breather.
The author actually writes very little in this book. Her words connecting parts of the story were completely unnecessary. There is no writing style. I would have preferred a forward page and have had it presented as a Diary or Journal.
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Format: Kindle Edition
From the beginning this book grabs your heart and doesn't let go.I started on the first page and couldn't put it down. By the end I felt like I knew Diana, and Diana's grandmother very well. So much happens throughout this book that is ordinary and yet unique that it reminded me of how powerful it is to reflect on our family history, and in particular the lives of our parents and grandparents, knowing that their story is part of our story now. It made me want to explore the lives of my two grandmothers. This book is insightful, compassionate, and written with elegance. I am inspired, and so glad I read this book! Can't recommend highly enough, you will love this book!
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Format: Hardcover
There are many words that can be used to describe this book: beautiful, sad, sweet, wonderful...but all will pale in comparison once you sit down and read Regina's vivid journal.

The Author, Diana Raab's, grandmother was her caretaker until she was ten years old. They had the most amazing relationship, making it all the more horrible when you find out at the beginning of this book that Regina took her own life when Diana was just a little girl. Young Diana had been left with so many questions that plagued her own life as she grew into adulthood that she truly couldn't believe her good fortune when her mother passed along her beloved grandmother's journal.

The author was going through her own horrifying illness as she opened the pages and sought solace and warmth - as well as a way to reconnect - with her grandmother. As the story unfolds, we learn of Regina's amazing strength, dealing with a mother who treated her coldly, at best, and a father who made choices after it was already too late.

We are told of the real life events as World War I started spreading through Regina's small hometown of Kalush. We see the anger on the streets and the blood flow as Regina's family, friends and neighbors watched their world disappear. We go through illness, war, pain, and travel into Vienna, as Regina tries to save her own life and the life of her sister. As we continue, the German soldiers begin knocking on the door as the atrocities of World War II come into being.

But, I must say, even though the historical pictures and tales are amazing to read about, the true color, flavor, and heart comes from Regina, herself. This author's grandmother was a true heroine when they were in incredibly short supply.
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Format: Hardcover
Reviewed by Connie Anderson

Subtitled: Finding My Grandmother's Secret Journal

Diana Raab's grandmother Regina took her own life in 1964 when Diana was about 10. Diana lost someone who loved her dearly--and gave her unconditional love.

In the 1990s Diana's mother was cleaning out a closet and found her mother journal, sheaves of paper in a folder. When she came to America, Regina wrote about her life in retrospect, growing up in Poland and Vienna during WWI--about war as seen through the eyes of a child.

The Reinharz family was parents, two older brothers, Regina and younger sister Beronia. Diana was shocked to read what her dear grandmother had gone through as a child of war. Mother had died from cholera, brothers left to start their own lives, and separated from their sick father, Beronia and Regina were left to fend for themselves as adolescents. A powerful and driven young girl, Regina knew if they were going to survive, she would have to make it happen.

Although about war, the story has such power of survival, of second effort at every turn. This young girl was never loved by her own mother, who resented her being born, and treated her horribly at every opportunity. Regina found that often she encountered women who didn't like her, and said "apparently she was not good a making women happy." What scars are left when you are not loved by a parent? How long do those scars stay, and how to they show themselves?

Regina knocked on doors asking for food, a place to live, a job, schooling, etc. She was in charge of herself and her sister--and she was not yet a teenager.

In addition to the journal, Raab intersperses some geography and history to give perspective.
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