First of all, thank you to FSB Associates for providing me with a review copy of this memoir. It’s actually my very first memoir that I have read from front to back in its’ completion. I’m not much of a memoir reader, the genre hasn’t really interested me but I gave this one a chance as it has something to do with World War II which I like to read about.
Bending Toward the Sun is a mother and daughter memoir by Leslie Gilbert-Lurie and her mother, Rita Lurie. It covers both of their lives and how the Holocaust has made such a significant impact on them and on their future generation. The first part features Rita’s story, from hiding in a cramped attic with her family during the War to her years in America struggling with her past and growing up without a real mother. The second part of the book, covers Leslie’s life, who tries very hard to please her mother, but at the same time, tries to understand what her mother went through and realizes that Rita’s painful past has somehow affected the outlook on life to Leslie, and also onto Leslie’s daughter Mikaela.
I thought it was an excellent memoir. Not only do you get to read the stories of two very strong willed women but there’s a clear concise narration to it that actually makes the memoir very interesting and before you knew it, you were already at the end. It was a very interesting look into their lives and how the Holocaust had made such an impact on their daily routines, how they thought, how they acted, and how strongly attached they were as a family unit. I especially liked Rita’s strength and her determination to be a very good mother to her children. Considering since she never really had a mother to begin with, she made an extreme effort to be loving and to give her children the childhood she never had when she was young. I thought it was very admirable and a very strong trait in her. Leslie also follows in her footsteps and tries to become a very good mother, but also it seems she has to please her mother as well, which can become extremely difficult as you see Leslie trying to struggle with it.
The book shows how slow psychological healing and with facing the past and its’ ghosts, it could go a long way into healing some wounds that have never had the chance of healing properly. I felt a lot for Rita, who really had no one to turn to, and to confide in, while she was in her teenage years. It truly seemed as if she was really alone in the world but again, as I said, it’s very admiring how she managed to be determined to pick herself up on her feet to live her life the way she wants. Although I really had no love for Clara even though she survived through a lot of pain and misery I can’t help but dislike her for her treatment towards Rita. It certainly didn’t help Rita much during her childhood. Towards the end however, I felt ambivalent towards her especially when she says her point of view of things. It was hard to believe who was telling the truth or if Rita had selective memory.
I have to admit, this book actually drove me to tears at the end. The letter Leslie and her sister writes to their Grandmother is very touching and although they never had a chance to meet her, is filled with love and provides some sort of closure like this book provides closure to their mother.
Overall a wonderful touching memoir about the impact the Holocaust has on its’ victims and their children.
I give it a 10 out of 10.