This family tree can be challenging to track, but ter Hart’s conversational style incites readers in and transports them into the center of her family’s experiences. Her stories of “Tante Mina,” an aunt who survived multiple concentration camps after her husband turned her over to the Nazis, is spellbinding, as is the family secret that her grandfather, Giovanni Vittali, hid a fortune’s worth of valuables for Jewish friends and family through his construction company. Equally moving are ter Hart’s personal photographs, such as a reproduction of her grandmother’s star of David and a snapshot of seven-year-old Maurits, a relative who was killed at Sobibor. Throughout the account, ter Hart returns to the family’s tendency to have twins, the genealogical thread that spurred her interest in uncovering her family’s background.
While ter Hart never shies away from shocking details (at Auschwitz she notes the “still visible claw marks of human fingernails on the walls of the gas chambers”), she highlights the silver lining of stumbling across her family’s confidences–including finally being able to connect with a distant relative who survived. She leaves readers with the gut-wrenching insight “[h]ow grievous that humans, generally, still seem unable to evolve beyond being the hunter, the hunted, or the watcher,” and anyone intrigued by family histories and uncompromising historical fiction will discover a narrative to remember.
Takeaway: An unforgettable odyssey of family, overflowing with devotion, grief, and resilience.
Great for fans of: Adiva Geffen’s Surviving the Forest, David Crow’s The Pale-Faced Lie.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B