Room for One More

  • Review
By – November 11, 2019

The opti­mistic and gen­er­ous title of this book does not hint at the com­plex­i­ties involved in mak­ing room for a stranger in a fam­i­ly with three daugh­ters: six­teen-year-old, fash­ion-con­scious Annette, pre-teen Roset­ta who is curi­ous, intel­lec­tu­al, and sen­si­tive, and Esther, whose exact age is not revealed but seems to be about four-years-old. Each girl has the lux­u­ry of her own bed­room. That will change with the unex­pect­ed arrival of an orphaned war refugee who becomes an adopt­ed broth­er” when the fam­i­ly is asked to pro­vide a home for him dur­ing World War II.

Only vague­ly aware of the hor­rors of the war, this Jew­ish Cana­di­an fam­i­ly, liv­ing com­fort­ably in Mon­tre­al, is con­front­ed with some of the harsh real­i­ties of life in Nazi Ger­many when a Mr. Schwartzberg arrives at their home seek­ing help for the suf­fer­ing Jews of Europe. Roset­ta, who loves to eaves­drop, over­hears much of the adults’ con­ver­sa­tion while hid­ing under the din­ing room table, but she doesn’t quite under­stand how much her family’s life is about to change. Isaac, their new six­teen-year-old broth­er” short­ly joins the fam­i­ly. Adjust­ments in life-style become nec­es­sary; mak­ing room for anoth­er sib­ling requires the two old­er girls to share a bed­room. This rev­e­la­tion is met with dis­may but also curios­i­ty, as well as an increas­ing aware­ness of life beyond their com­fort­able world.

The sto­ry por­trays the per­va­sive, casu­al­ly-expressed anti­semitism the girls begin to expe­ri­ence and depicts life in a large Cana­di­an city, which is sim­i­lar to but sub­tly dif­fer­ent from life in the Unit­ed States. Although painful to read, the sto­ries Isaac tells the fam­i­ly about life under Nazi occu­pa­tion are mut­ed enough to help chil­dren begin to com­pre­hend the loss, dis­place­ment, and sad­ness engen­dered by the war with­out being overwhelmed.

Award-win­ning jour­nal­ist and free­lance writer, Helen Weiss Pin­cus, has taught mem­oir writ­ing and cre­ative writ­ing through­out the NY Metro area to senior cit­i­zens and high school stu­dents. Her work has been pub­lished in The New York Times, The Record, The Jew­ish Stan­dard, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. She recent­ly added Bub­by” to her job description.

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