Five Amber Beads alternates chapters to tell two interesting stories, both of which deal with memory. Charley Bernstein, an Englishman, meets and befriends an elderly man, Christopher, who has total amnesia. Charley has inherited his uncle’s diary, written during his time in a labor camp during the Third Reich. His interest in researching his past by meeting up with an old family connection in Israel who can tell him more about the diary parallels his work as an art historian researching the provenance of a certain Modigliani painting that is up for sale. He takes Christopher along with him to England and Israel in the hope of triggering Christopher’s memory, so that he can regain his own past. Aronowitz’s style is descriptive and haunting, and though Five Amber Beads is a quick read, it does not have a neat ending. This novel is based on an actual diary and the author’s real desire to discover the truth of his past, which was kept from him by his mother.
Miriam Bradman Abrahams is a Cuban-born, Brooklyn-raised, Long Island-residing mom. She is Hadassah Nassau’s One Region One Book chairlady, a freelance essayist, and a certified yoga instructor who has loved reviewing books for the JBC for the past ten years.