Book Review from the BlogJul 29, 2020
I finished the book, ugly cried, and decided that this book was worthy of a blog post. I loved the plot and the message, but most of all I loved the women characters. I could relate in some way to each one of them. I found myself talking to them in my head as I read the book. Because I come from Jewish heritage, the Holocaust parts of the book affected me emotionally, as well. I was taken there – the horrors, the smells, the day to day existence.
The Overall Story
The book goes back and forth between Nazi occupied Poland and the present. Alice’s grandmother, who she calls Babcia (polish for “grandmother”) has asked her to go back to Trzebinia, the tiny village in Poland where she grew up to, “find Tomasz.” Alice and her mother, Julita, fear that Babcia is confused. Tomasz is her husband who died a year ago. Alice feels that she owes it to her grandmother to go.
The Amazing Women in the Story and How I Related to Each
Alice is a stay at home mom to Callie who is around 10 and Eddie who is a teenage boy with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Her husband, Wade, is a decent guy but isn’t as involved with Eddie and his care as Alice would like. As we read, we discover that part of the reason for this is that Alice is a bit of a control freak in how things are done with Eddie. Which, in turn, feeds into some of the rigidities that are a result of his ASD. Essentially, no one else can do it like she can and although she wants Wade to be more involved, he never quite does anything exactly right.
She is terrified that things will fall completely apart at home while she is in Poland. It almost keeps her from making the trip.
Can anyone else relate to Alice like I could? I was TOTALLY her as a mom! No one could do it correctly other than me. I can remember yelling at my then husband when I was out of town because he didn’t give the boys broccoli with dinner! I micromanaged every single detail of their lives and would become angry if things weren’t done the way I expected. In short, I was a control freak mom. I didn’t have autism thrown into the mix – I can only imagine how much more controlling I would have been.
As I look back on those years, I know that my intentions were good but, at the end of the day, who really cared if the boys didn’t have broccoli with dinner one night? We have to stop sweating the small stuff!!
Alice’s mom – Babcia’s daughter. Also a control freak. But in a different way.
Her career was seemingly everything to her. She is a high powered judge who is used to getting her way. Julita appears to be ashamed of Alice because she is nothing more than an at home mom. She has a hard time demonstrating love.
Alice became the mom that Julita wasn’t. Her family and children came first – even before herself.
As someone who grew up with a mom who worked very long hours and decided, as a result of that, to become an at home mom, this relationship spoke to me. But, it helped me to see another perspective as I read the book. And to realize that what is a good life choice for one person may not be for another. Alice turned out fine in spite of having a working mom and so did I.
The grandmother. And, as a grandmother, I could relate to her and I loved how she loved her family. She was such a good great-grandmother to Eddie and they shared a special connection. She loved Julita but understood her shortcomings. And she loved Alice.
She was wise. A true family matriarch.
As I read her story, it made me think on my grandmother journal and my open letter to my grandchildren. We grandmothers need to tell our stories through journaling or recordings. And we need to write letters to our grands. They need to have these tangibles to go back and re-read and re-listen to whenever they want to! I wish my grandmothers had done something like that. I loved them both and would have treasured it. And been able to share it all with my grandchildren.
I highly recommend this book. For my fellow grandmas and my fellow after 50ers who are redefining and setting new goals for the next 30+ years, this is an excellent, relatable, heartwarming story. I was full of gratitude and motivation when I closed the book. The final paragraph made me smile and say “Hell, yeah!”
“Our family life is never going to be easy, but that can’t stop any one of us from reaching for our dreams. It cost our ancestors too damned much for us to have this life – the best thing we can do is to honor them and to live it to its fullest.”