Y’all by now should know that I have a weakness for World War II stories. My curiosity towards Holocaust and the tragedies related to that has lead me to some good books and several hours of random history lessons on the Internet.
And I was offered by Ishai Kalinovsky to read an ARC of his memoir I’m not from Around Here in exchange for a review, I had to accept it even though I don’t read many memoirs generally. How did it turn out? Read ahead to know more.
About the book
Book Name: I’m not from Around Here
Author: Ishai Kalinovsky
Genre: Non-Fiction – Historical, Memoir
Characters: Lola, Stashek, Hannah, the narrator Sam, Emile.
Setting: Poland, Germany, and Israel
Disclaimer: I received this indie book from the author in exchange for an honest and fair review.
I’m not from Around Here reads like a diary of the author Ishai Kalinovsky that talks about the experiences of his Jewish family right from the time of the World War II in Poland. His mother is a labor camp survivor while her dad was a street fighter in Warsaw. The couple meet immediately after the end of the War and escape to Germany to win what was looted from the Jews.
I’m not from Around Here is not about the war but its aftermath on Jews and the other survivors. The narrator’s father, Stashek is an unscrupulous businessman who would do what he has to provide for himself, his mistresses and his family. He takes up to the black market business and has a great influence on the society by being fearsome.
When his parents break up his mother Lola takes up another man and gets pregnant, which is a total no-no in their orthodox neighborhood. Lola was a timid, weak girl when she entered the labor camp. But her firm belief in her guardian angel helped her survive all the adversities in her life.
Meanwhile, the narrator’s estranged father and stepfather are arrested for smuggling cars into the country. How the narrator and his family survive the final blow of being strewn across the country forms the rest of I’m not from Around Here.
Being a memoir we get to take a glimpse at what really happened in the camps but that is just a small part in the book. I sort of guessed the story would end up before the young ones grew up and am glad it ended so.
Even though the narration is by the young Ishai Kalinovsky through out, I’m not from Around Here has multiple point of views which work in some places and not in others.There were too many characters mostly minor that do not contribute much to the story, which may be partly owing to the genre.
Usually I don’t read many memoirs because they would hard for me to relate to. But maybe since I’m not from Around Here had multiple POV and the narrator was a young boy I was able to relate and I ended up liking the characters.
Bottom – line
I’m not from Around Here is quite long with about 400 pages but it was totally worth the read and it left me emotionally drained for hours.
Let us chat
Do you read memoirs? Is it easier to review or talk about memoir than fictions? Do you feel emotionally drained after you finish reading a book? Let’s chat.
What happens after you die? Depending on your religious beliefs, it may be afterlife, reincarnation or nothing at all. If you read a lot of YA literature zombie life may not be far from your thoughts. What if you were resurrected and your religious world was all ready to believe in it until you literally are resurrected? Would they understand you are the one that fulfills that prophecies? How would the modern world accept it? Moshe Karlin’s life just would answer those questions in An Unexpected Afterlife.
Book Name: An Unexpected Afterlife
Series: The Dry Bones Society #1
Author: Dan Sofer
Genre: Fiction – Paranormal
Characters: Moshe and Galit Karlin, Avi, Rabbi Yosef Lev
Setting: Jerusalem, Israel
Disclaimer: Thanks to the Author for the Review Copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Moshe Karlin wakes up naked at a cemetery at the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem the morning after his 40th birthday. He catches a taxi to his house, trying to remember what prank his best friend Avi had pulled on him the previous night, only to find Avi and his wife Gallit in bed together. As if that was not enough to enrage him, Avi throws him off his house, saying Moshe has been dead for two years.
He reaches out to the local Rabbi Yosef, the one who buried Moshe when he was dead and tries to understand his situation. Without an ID, place to live or family to depend upon he stumbles on trying to win his old life, his wife, and his daughter. The Rabbi and Moshe are startled to find more ‘dead’ people are resurrected, and they seek their help. Some remember who they were; many don’t. Some are Jews, and few are not. Didn’t Torah promise that only Jews will be resurrected?
Meanwhile, not far from this chaos, the Prophet Elijah himself is stuck in an unforeseen situation. According to the scriptures and the destiny, he was supposed to save the world, but how can he when His world is changing. To make matters worse for the Rabbi the Great Council (of religious wisemen) discards the Rabbi’s theory of resurrection and pronounces the resurrected as ‘ Sitra Achra!’ (other side / unholy world).
What does the Rabbi choose – his free will and understanding of the Torah or the words of the Council that has guided him all through his life and also can change the stability and peace in a teacher’s life? How do Moshe and his clan move ahead? Did they find what they are seeking? The An Unexpected Afterlife and the series will answer your questions.
An Unexpected Afterlife is a steady paced narrative that kept me engrossed until the end, well, end of the first book of the series. Thankfully the book didn’t end in a cliffhanger perse, though the series would answer many questions. The writing is crisp, and the tiny streak of satire kept things interesting. I loved the strong world building, and all the central characters had depth
The one thing that kinda annoyed me at the was that the stories of Moshe and Elijah did not seem to be related all, at least in the first book. Maybe they will merge somewhere down the lane in the following books of the series. I am not a great fan of fantasy and the zombie/undead world and have avoided them for a while. An Unexpected Afterlife made me realize what I have been missing out.
The story is primarily set in Israel, and I loved how the book let me have a glimpse into the world of Jews and their beliefs and culture. It is one of those things that made say yes when the author Dan Sofer approached for a review of his book, and I am glad I chose it. If you are interested in reading a religious take on the resurrection An Unexpected Afterlife is your pick.
I had been hearing rad reviews about The Book Thief for a while now from everywhere, thanks to its movie namesake. I knew I would like it, as it has been repeatedly suggested by like minded friends as well, but was holding back from jumping into for want of time.
Finally as soon as I got my mobile with a larger screen, I feigned illness to stay up in bed for a longer hours only to read. And I was not disappointed at all.
Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Genre: Fiction – Historical
Main Characters: Liesel Meminger, Hans Hubermann, Rudy Steiner, Rosa Hubermann,Max Vandenburg, Tommy Müller, Ilsa Hermann, Frau Holtzapfel
Setting: Molching, Germany,1939
The Book Thief is a slow moving poignant story of a young, skinny German girl Liesel Meminger who lives with her foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann at 33, Himmel Street. The story has layers of intertwined lives filled with emotions that makes me feel bewildered not knowing where to start. What better, if not easier path to start than from the beginning.
The narration is by none other than Death, personified, which makes it all the more interesting. The story begins with the narrator saying that He had visited the girl thrice in her life time. The girl and her brother were given up to her foster parents by her mother, but en route to meet them her brother dies in the train. Liesel and her mother arrange for his burial in a nameless town, where she picks up a book dropped by one of the grave diggers – that’s her first book thievery.
She is entrusted with Hans and Rosa, who takes care of her as their own. She particularly gets very close to her Papa. She grows up rich with memories and love, though they lived at one of the poorer part of the town and struggle to make ends meet. Rudy Steiner, her best friend and partner in crime, and Liesel, alongside the other street urchins steal food often from the richer neighborhoods. Her Papa teaches her to read and write painfully and slowly so that she can read the book she had stolen. Lives continue as peacefully as it can at a poor German community, where Nazis are already hunting down Kommunists and Jews.
The Book Thief balances between the history and cruelty of the Nazis and the personal lives of people whose lives the war shatters. Liesel’s family gets to harbor a Jew in their basement, a secret she even keeps from Rudy. Nazis want to recruit Rudy into their programme and his father refuses to send his son into the ill fated troop. Death continues to visit our little book thief, revealing too much might make it a spoiler. You should definitely read this book!
I should start off by saying how much I loved the simple yet powerful language used. Too many quotable quotes to remember and not to worry, I have shared them for you below the review. Though I got to know that Death visited her thrice earlier in the story, I couldn’t keep the book down till I finished the last paragraph since I wanted to know what happened next.
I loved the friendly banter between Liesel and Rudy as much as I loved the relationship of Hans and Rosa. Who could not admire Hans for his kindness, benevolence and integrity despite the hard times they faced! Every single character, be it small or not, from Max, Ilsa to even Frau Diller who was a Fuehrer loyalist was etched perfection.
Even tiny moments left a lingering impact in my mind, like Illsa offering notebooks for Liesel to write her own thoughts, which incidentally saves her life and Max’s sketches extolling the power of the words and its role in Hitler’s rise. Nothing but Markus’s words could have let me justify the suicide of the son of Frau Holtzman, who had already lost her other son to the war.
The way that Death was personified, not just as the evil taker of lives but as a being that “who gently carries off the souls of those who have passed” spun sheer magic for me and I clearly was hooked.
I had to hold the best for the last, don’t I? I simply adored Rudy. Be it his crazy obsession about Jesse Owens that he blackened himself head to toe, or his loyal friendship that he always accompanied our book thief even though he knows she was lying about hunting the Mayor’s house for food. I couldn’t stop grinning every time he asked for a kiss. And to know he wasn’t going to survive the end earlier on, made him more irresistible than before. Rudy Steiner you are the romantic guy that I need 😉 Augustus Waters, who?
Now few (or more) quotes that I loved from The Book Thief. Feel free to share them 😛
“Please, trust me. I most definitely can be cheerful. I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that’s only the A’s. Just don’t ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me.”
“No matter how many times she was told that she was loved, there was no recognition that the proof was in the abandonment. Nothing changed the fact that she was a lost, skinny child in another foreign place, with more foreign people. Alone.”
“Not leaving: an act of trust and love, often deciphered by children “
” is there cowardice in the acknowledgment of fear? Is there cowardice in being glad that you lived?”
It’s probably what I love most about writing—that words can be used in a way that’s like a child playing in a sandpit, rearranging things, swapping them around. They’re the best moments in a day of writing—when an image appears that you didn’t know would be there when you started work in the morning.”
I cannot stop gushing over The Book Thief yet, to anyone who would listen. Yes it is a little slow but powerful words make up for that. I am yet to see the movie, so I am not yet ready to have your “movie or book?“question but do fire away all your other questions.
Have you read The Book Thief, what are your thoughts on it? Let me know.