Memoirs can be perilous for writer and reader alike, and Leslie Gilbert-Lurie tackles the genre’s pitfalls head-on by recreating both her mother’s life followed by the writer’s look at her own life.
Rita (Ruchel) Gamss struggled through 1942 – 44 in a Polish attic. Watching helplessly as her mother and brother die, she subsequently makes her pitiful, courageous way to the U.S., then rebuilds her life barricaded by scars from her experience. In all italics, “Mom’s” adjustment to distress and happiness fills the first half of this book, with much dialogue, peppered by Yiddish and un-Anglicized spelling.
In the second half of the memoir, Rita’s daughter, the author (now in regular type), unveils traumas and anxieties of the Holocaust that have shaped her. Leslie Gilbert-Lurie “accomplished”— as attorney, writer, and executive in the commercial and not-for-profit world. But she never overcomes her fears (attributing to superstition bona-fide rituals such as affixing a mezuzah to her door) or the emotional legacy that surrounded her. To her dismay, she sees these same inner stresses emerging in her young daughter.
Readers of various ageas will be attracted to Bending Toward the Sun, including young adults. Acknowledgements, photographs, prologue.