This unusual wartime love story is punctuated by nearly 50 actual photographs from the 1920s and 30s, uncovered by the author in Germany while researching an uncle his family knew little about. Reuss creates the tale of his uncle Max Mohr, who was an exiled Jewish playwright, novelist and physician. He leaves Berlin with his gentile wife, Kathe, and moves to a farmhouse where she raises their daughter Eva while he commutes to work in Berlin. Mohr then decides to move, alone, to Shanghai because of rising danger for Jews in Germany. The book describes Mohr’s conflicting longings for home and for adventure, his idealism as a doctor and a writer, his feeling of being a perpetual outsider, his ambivalence as an apolitical Jew. We hear his philosophical conversations with other expats in “the settlement” in Shanghai and see his compassionate contact with the locals. I was truly taken by the story’s beautiful dreamlike descriptions and haunting foreboding of tragedy.
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.