The title only hints at the length and breadth of this story, in which two shiny brass candlesticks, a tallis, and a sewing machine, all resting on a shelf in a Jerusalem home, symbolize an incredible loss. The reader will learn what they represent through the history of Leah Fruchter. As a twelve-year-old, Leah is required to make a difficult choice: should she continue to live in the comfort and security she enjoys with the family that has adopted her, or choose the poverty and struggle that she will face with the mother who gave her life and from whom she was taken as an infant.
Although the title is true to the central event in Leah’s story, the book’s secondary subject is the tragedy of Hungary’s Jews, the destruction of even more than those Jewish communities in which Leah spent her childhood: Budapest the capital city where she lived with her adoptive family, and Sevlus, the shtetl in which she lived and worked beside her birth mother. The attention to detail with which the drama unfolds, the loving depiction of each and every character, the diligence with which each scene is painted seem to represent the author’s longing glance backward at a community that hatred wiped out.
The writing is fluent and expressive, but the flow of words is sometimes too copious. The fact that this memoir was initially a weekly serial might explain its somewhat repetitive quality. Old photographs of people and places are sprinkled throughout the book, as are notes about the terrible fates that befell some of the worthiest people one could hope to meet.