BOOK REVIEW: THE LOST: A SEARCH FOR SIX OF SIX MILLION
Searching for answers to the unknown fate of members of his own family who died in Nazi occupied Ukraine in the 1940's, Daniel Mendelsohn follows hints and clues virtually around the world and records the story of his travels, enriched by insights from Greek and Roman tragedies and by contemporary and medieval commentaries on the books of the Hebrew Bible.
The unanswerable question of the late 20th century, which in fact endures today, is "how could the monstrous events of the Holocaust have happened?" Mendelsohn doesn't seek to answer that one cosmic question. Instead, in search of the answer to a more specific personal query, he traces the history of his own family beginning in mid 19th century Austria-Hungary, relating misunderstandings, tragedies, betrayals, along with loves, romances, travels, and emigration. Turning as well to the Biblical stories of Cain and Abel, of Noah and the flood, the wanderings of Abraham, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the author brings home the tensions and estrangement which can arise among family members. When a Ukrainian woman Mendelsohn meets on his first trip to the small village describes the town as "just like a family" I felt a chill.
Almost any family will find snippets of their own history in the early chapters. It's self evident that as the tragedy builds in later chapters, most readers will find the events of Mendelsohn's family moving into an arena of greater and indeed, unspeakable horror. But that's the lesson we carry away from this remarkable book.
From Ukraine, to Long Island New York, to Israel, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, and back to the Ukraine, the reader follows Mendelsohn on a long, emotional, and deeply personal journey. Following stories he hears from a small group of persons who lived in his family's village and who survived the Second War, he eventually has the entire truth.
Deeply engrossing and immensely readable, THE LOST is a very thoughtful and impressive book.
REVIEWED BY WOODSTOCK
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