THE LOST FAMILY
By: Jenna Blum
Published: June 5, 2018
Heartache, even decades later, can still feel like it just happened yesterday. Even though Peter survived WWII and brutal treatment by the Nazis, his wife and twin toddler daughters did not. He came to America to start over and as much as he has tried, he hasn’t been able to forget what happened to them. His cousin Sol and his wife Ruth have helped him start a new life and tried to convince him to move on. Instead, Peter disappears into his work. His restaurant, Masha’s is a success, but every dish is based on what he and his wife Masha dreamed about serving. So, even at work, he is reminded of his wife and daughters. Peter is quite handsome and his success has made him quite an eligible bachelor. But, he wants no part of that until a gorgeous model, June, enters his restaurant. At first, their relationship is flirtatious, but eventually, Peter realizes he does love her and they marry.
June knows that she can never compete with the ghost of Masha and even though there is love, there is always a sadness that follows Peter. When their daughter, Elsbeth, grows, she too feels like she can’t compete with her dead half-siblings or her mother’s beauty. The sadness in this family overshadows the happiness and success Peter and June have had. There seems to always be a bitterness towards each other. Elsbeth senses the pain in the house and can’t wait for cooking dates with her father when the two of them really connect and Peter seems to be more at ease.
Blum is a talented writer and her research is meticulous. Her attention to detail and creative descriptions of the restaurant business, the 1960’s – 1980’s in New York City, June’s visits back to the Midwest (even Cedar Rapids, Iowa gets a mention) and the modeling business made every page an adventure. The reader is immersed in New York City and the food described will make your mouth water. But, the sadness seeps across the pages and the novel gets to be a bit heavy at times. There isn’t much joy or laughter on the pages. There is love, but unfortunately, it isn’t shown in ways that most people expect.
The story of this family is told in three parts over three decades. We first get Peter’s story starting in 1965. Then it jumps ahead to 1975 for June’s story. Some years are missing, but the reader gets the gist of what’s been happening through flashbacks. Then Elsbeth is suddenly a teenager in 1985 and we learn about her struggles with her weight, her unhappy parents, and her dreams. Sadly, Elsbeth turns to destructive measures to fit in and feel loved. Your heart aches for her and you want to shake her parents to get them to see what’s happening right in front of them.
This story offers readers a new perspective on life after WWII and how the atrocities don’t ever leave the memories of those who suffered. Their memories then affect the lives of those they are connected to and the ripple effect can be wide and far. Blum’s handling of this sensitive story a man who survived WWII highlight the difficulties as well as the hope for a better future.
That was the trouble with June: she did have her moments,
but she was like the sun coming out from the clouds on an overcast day;
just when you were enjoying the warmth, she disappeared again,
leaving you longing for what you didn’t know you’d been missing
and even colder than you’d been before.
Jenna Blum is the New York Times and number one international bestselling author of the novels THOSE WHO SAVE US and THE STORMCHASERS. She was also voted one of the favorite contemporary women writers by Oprah.com readers. Blum is based in Boston, where she earned her MA from Boston University and has taught fiction and novel workshops for Grub Street Writers for twenty years. For more information, check out her website, HERE.
Check out my review of GRAND CENTRAL: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion in which Blum contributed a story.
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