Book Review of The Lost Family by Jenna Blum
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book about a Holocaust survivor living life after the war. I’ve read several books about people’s stories during the war, but it usually focuses on the war, not after. Consequently, I have not taken the time to think about how living through an ordeal like that would affect their daily lives. Now that I think about it, it would be difficult. To have been treated so poorly and to have seen so many die around you would definitely haunt your dreams. It affected Peter enough that it made living difficult for him. His story in the book was my favorite. Find out more of what I thought in my book review of The Lost Family by Jenna Blum.
“In 1965 Manhattan, patrons flock to Masha’s to savor its brisket bourguignon and impeccable service, and to admire its dashing owner and head chef, Peter Rashkin. With his movie-star good looks and tragic past, Peter, a survivor of Auschwitz, is the most eligible bachelor in town. But Peter does not care for the parade of eligible women who come to the restaurant hoping to catch his eye. He has resigned himself to a solitary life. Running Masha’s consumes him, as does his terrible guilt over surviving the horrors of the Nazi death camp while his wife, Masha—the restaurant’s namesake—and two young daughters perished.
Then exquisitely beautiful June Bouquet, an up-and-coming young model, appears at the restaurant, piercing Peter’s guard. Tough she is twenty years his junior, the two begin a passionate, whirlwind courtship. When June unexpectedly becomes pregnant, Peter proposes, believing that beginning a new family with the woman he loves will allow him to let go of the horror of the past. But over the next twenty years, the indelible sadness of those memories will overshadow Peter, June, and their daughter, Elsbeth, transforming them in shocking, heartbreaking, and unexpected ways.
Jenna Blum artfully brings to the page a husband devastated by a grief he cannot name, a frustrated wife struggling to compete with a ghost she cannot banish, and a daughter sensitive to the pain of both her own family and another lost before she was born. Spanning three cinematic decades, The Lost Family is a charming, funny, and elegantly bittersweet study of the repercussions of loss and love.”
My Book Review:
This book hooked me at the beginning. I loved the writing style, the descriptions, the story of Peter, and the focus on the food. Peter’s story grips you to the core. I can’t imagine losing my family in the way he did; it would devastate me. Peter seems like such a good guy. He struggles, but who wouldn’t in that situation? And his struggles stem from something terrible, so you empathize with him. June seemed like the perfect person for Peter. It was fun reading about their courtship and how June was able to help Peter start afresh. I really loved this part of the book.
And then it all went downhill. Part two skips to 1975 and is told from June’s point of view. Wow. She’s… (I’m speechless when I try to explain her.) She’s not a nice person, I’ll just say that. I can understand how by this point she probably thought that Peter should have been able to overcome some of his grief. I get how hard it probably was for her with a husband who was pretty closed-off. That would be very difficult on a marriage. However, that does not excuse her actions.
At this point the book took a very uncomfortable turn. I didn’t like it at all. In fact, it made me very uncomfortable. June’s character became extremely unlikable, whiny, selfish, and…awful. I couldn’t relate to her or her actions at all. I understood that what she had wasn’t maybe what she had envisioned for herself, but come on! Life is unpredictable. Grow up and take responsibility.
I also understand that life for women in the 70s may still have been a little more controlled by men. I get that Peter didn’t seem to listen to her concerns. However, she could have handled things much differently. She could have made life better for her family.
And just when you think the book can only get better, it gets even worse. You skip to 1985 and get to hear Elsbeth’s story. This part is VERY disturbing—even more than June’s story. What is going on? With a closed-off father and an awful mother, Elsbeth is doomed. Seriously. She is messed up. Don’t let your children anywhere near this part of the book. Yes, it is that bad. The things she does are some of my worst nightmares for my daughters. She has no self esteem, she looks for love and affection from all the wrong places, and she doesn’t have great friends.
Elsbeth hears opposite messages from her parents, and you can tell she’s confused. It is EXTREMELY uncomfortable reading this part of the book. If I hadn’t been reviewing it, I would not have finished. If Ms. Blum was going for shocking, she got it.
I was so disappointed and appalled. The first part of the book was so good! I had high expectations for the rest of the book and didn’t expect it to go the way it did. At all. Sometimes that’s a good thing. This time, no. I wish the book had ended after part one. I would have given it 4 stars for sure. Between the unlikable and hard-to-relate-to characters, the content of the story, and the characters’ actions, the last two-thirds of the book were a huge disappointment.
Not only that, but it was uncomfortable to read. Sometimes uncomfortable is good because you can learn from the moment. For example, it makes me uncomfortable to read about how slaves were treated in the U.S. In that case it’s okay because at least I can learn from the past. The uncomfortable in this book is not like that. In my opinion, it’s jarring just to be jarring. I didn’t like it. This book had so much potential. Unfortunately, it did not live up to that potential.
Content Rating: R (There is quite a bit of profanity in this book, including many “f” words. There’s a lot of “intimacy,” including descriptive scenes, innuendos, oral, and discussions about it–including pornography with a child. Also included are eating disorders and other adult themes.)
My Rating: 2/5
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.