Escape In Time: Miri’s Riv­et­ing Tale of Her Family’s Sur­vival Dur­ing World War II

Ronit Lowen­stein-Malz; Lau­rie McGaw, illus.; Leo­ra Frankel, trans.
  • Review
By – June 16, 2015

This intrigu­ing fact-based nov­el presents a dual nar­ra­tion. An Israeli girl, Nessya, reacts to her grandmother’s expe­ri­ences in war-torn Hun­gary by read­ing a nar­ra­tive pre­pared by the grand­moth­er based part­ly on fam­i­ly let­ters nev­er sent for fear of the con­tents falling into Nazi hands. These let­ters are also read by Nessya. 

In 1944, the young Miri Ene­man, along with her par­ents and three old­er sis­ters, attempts to flee the per­se­cu­tion of her community’s Jews, already con­fined to a ghet­to. The father, Naf­tuli, is the story’s hero. His excep­tion­al fore­sight allows him to see that doing noth­ing, the stance of his Jew­ish neigh­bors, is to end up dead. Care­ful­ly and stealth­ily, he arranges for false doc­u­ments as well as well-com­pen­sat­ed assis­tance from friend­ly gen­tiles. The fam­i­ly mem­bers escape the ghet­to and make their way to Budapest, where it seems that they can find greater safe­ty until the Russ­ian forces defeat the Nazis. Naftuli’s schemes are suc­cessful, though there are many close calls and much suf­fer­ing along the way. 

Upon Nessya’s ques­tion­ing, Miri’s youth­ful per­spec­tive, enhanced by the knowl­edge gained through her adult years, is now tapped. She releas­es a life­time of repressed mem­o­ries, allow­ing her grand­daugh­ter Nessya to gain a mov­ing and mean­ing­ful under­stand­ing of the Holo­caust with­out con­fronting the hor­rid real­i­ties of the death camps. 

The char­ac­ters are crisply dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed, superb illus­tra­tions help us relate to them, and sus­pense runs high. 

First pub­lished in Hebrew in 2006, this book is per­fect for young­sters twelve and older.

Philip K. Jason is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of Eng­lish at the Unit­ed States Naval Acad­e­my. A for­mer edi­tor of Poet Lore, he is the author or edi­tor of twen­ty books, includ­ing Acts and Shad­ows: The Viet­nam War in Amer­i­can Lit­er­ary Cul­ture and Don’t Wave Good­bye: The Chil­dren’s Flight from Nazi Per­se­cu­tion to Amer­i­can Free­dom.

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