In this thoughtful novel, a grandmother and child of the Holocaust must face the secrets of her past to live more fully in the present.
When 82-year-old Daria Abramson begins having disturbing dreams and panic attacks, she decides to see a therapist to find relief. Through Dr. Metzger, she begins to peel back the layers of her life, exposing the shame, guilt, and suffering she endured both during her childhood and as an adult, never really connecting how one has informed the other. She feels she has failed her husband and daughter, but it’s her relationship with her best friend Ruthie—who survived alongside Daria during the Holocaust—that will require the most courage to examine.
Ingber’s book is an interesting departure from many novels about the Holocaust, in that the story doesn’t attempt to mine new ground of past atrocities. The author sticks to his strength, offering a dialogue-driven exploration of Daria’s past through her therapy sessions and conversations with others, rather than a lengthy narrative thrusting readers back in time.
What’s more important is how Daria has dealt – or not dealt – with her traumatic childhood and how it’s affecting her now. For example, when Daria’s 16-year-old granddaughter confides in her that the 20-year-old assistant tennis coach is romantically interested in her, Daria vacillates between betraying her granddaughter by getting others involved or letting the situation play out. Is her inaction about her granddaughter or something else?
Most readers will find relatable topics in Daria’s therapy sessions as Dr. Metzger probes her to look more deeply at past incidents. Many of Daria’s concerns center on her feelings of inadequacy as a wife and working mother as she begins to question everything she has said and done to others and what she might have done differently.
While the Holocaust is the backdrop for her trauma, Daria’s everyday regrets about the totality of her life’s choices provide a universal and contemporary theme sure to intrigue readers.