Joyce Reise Kornblatt‘s protagonist Rachael Silver, a Holocaust survivor living in Argentina, undertakes “the duties of a witness,” setting down for her missing granddaughter Marcella, a history of the family’s survival. The chronicle begins with Rachael’s grandparents Dov and Reba and their young daughter Sonia, who will become Rachael’s mother. This is a tale of departure and arrival — from Dov’s mysterious “winged” disappearance in the Danube Delta and his family’s subsequent flight from pogroms and war. In temporary refuges — a Carpathian Mountain spa, a Catholic convent, an elegant Prague apartment, the Berounka caves and Pilsen’s underground tunnels — Kornblatt’s characters compel us with their dignity, their humor and especially their endurance even in the face of the Nazi’s relentless genocide. Finding haven at last in Buenos Aires, Dov Landau’s descendants encounter the Fascist nightmare yet again, swept up this time in Argentina’s “Dirty War” of the 1970s. When her pregnant daughter and son-in-law vanish into the military torture camps, Rachael finds strength and courage in the family stories she herself creates. A legacy for her granddaughter — “We would have named you Marcella” — Rachael’s narrative is a testimony to love as much as it is to the will to live.
“Kornblatt’s lyrical narrative blends Isaac Bashevis Singer’s magic realism with Elie Wiesel’s sorrowful morality and Borges’s elegant storytelling.”
Joyce Reiser Kornblatt is the author of Nothing to Do with Love, White Water, Breaking Bread, and The Reason for Wings. She also writes essays and reviews and has recent work in Parabola. A former Professor of English in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Maryland, she now lives in the Blue Mountains, just west of Sydney, Australia. She offers writing workshops, retreats and mentoring for writers, (www.joycekornblatt.net), and is the founding teacher of a Buddhist meditation community, Cloud Refuge (www.cloudrefuge.org). She is currently at work on a new novel, Lyrebird.
“In the beautiful opening chapter, we learn how her bird watching grandfather, Dov Landau, disappeared into the marshy delta of the Danube, leaving behind a grieving wife, a daughter, a Gypsy apprentice — “a family of ghosts,” Rachael calls them all. . . . We’ve heard about the terrible period of Argentina’s so-called “dirty war” in which thousands of people, many of them Jews, disappeared into the army camps, ever to be seen again. But no writer, until now, has knitted together these two segments of suffering with such powerful effect. Even without the pelican, this story would have soared.”
—Alan Cheuse, National Public Radio
“A fine and original contribution to the canon of Holocaust literature. . . . Rachel Silver’s narrative is a primal act of healing and family preservation.”