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To Life


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Gr 6 Up This powerfully written sequel to The Cage (Macmillan, 1986) is aptly named. In recounting her experiences following World War II, Sender lays strong emphasis on life, the future, family, and especially children. The most poignant scenes in the book involve children. For all the psychological scars, for all the torment the survivors of the Holocaust remember, and the hatred and scorn they must still endure, this is not a bleak book. Riva marries Moniek, another survivor, and they start a new family. Her older brother and sisters who fled to Russia at the start of the war are found, each with their new families. After much frustration and searching, they locate distant relatives in the U.S., and in 1950, five years after liberation, Riva, Moniek, and their children are allowed to enter the U.S. Although memoirs of the Holocaust abound, there is very little written on the aftermath. Joanna Reiss' The Journey Back (Crowell, 1976) and Aranka Siegal's Grace in the Wilderness (Farrar, 1985) are two other books that deal with this period. To Life is a more immediate book, however. Told in the present tense, it brings Riva's experiences close to readers instead of shrouding them with the veils of intervening years. To Life is not just a highly recommended book, it is a necessity. Susan M. Harding, Mesquite Public Library, Tex.

Following The Cage , Sender's memoir of her time spent in Grafenort, the Nazi camp, this recollection chronicles the author's early 20s. Riva describes liberation by Russian troops, a fearful time of wandering, the return to her family home in Poland, and years of waiting in camps for displaced persons for permission to emigrate. Her marriage to another survivor, Moniek, produces two sons. But can she start to live normally again? ``As long as there is life, there is hope,'' her mother, who perished in the Holocaust, would say. Riva clings to this idea and to the restorative power of family. Even autobiography needs a narrative thread for readers, but because much of the story involves waiting, it becomes repetitive and is not as compelling as it might have been. Actions are skimmed over, Riva's feelings are generalized and the other characters remain shadowy. But as testament to the human spirit, this memoir shines. The material is so striking that it demands a close reading. Each time Riva sees compassion in ``the survivors of horror, degradation, death,'' she is awed. And readers will be, too. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)

"To Life is not just a highly recommended book, it is a necessity". -- School Library Journal, starred review

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