Fic­tion

Send for Me: A Novel

  • Review
By – July 26, 2021

In Lau­ren Fox’s Send For Me Regret is a low, con­stant throb,” as the trau­ma of the Holo­caust at once tears apart and binds togeth­er three gen­er­a­tions of moth­ers and daugh­ters. Annelise, the daugh­ter of bak­ers Julius and Klara, is able to escape Ger­many with her hus­band and daugh­ter before it’s too late, but her par­ents are unable to. Years lat­er, Annelise’s direc­tion­less grand­daugh­ter Clare dis­cov­ers Klara’s plain­tive let­ters to Annelise, as she tries to escape the increas­ing­ly dire sit­u­a­tion to no avail. These words pro­vide the voice of The ghosts she trav­eled with” her whole life.

The Holo­caust itself is a specter, nev­er named, but loom­ing, ever-present in all the char­ac­ters’ lives. Fox por­trays the rise of anti­semitism — friends turn­ing against each oth­er, busi­ness­es clos­ing — with a grow­ing sense of dread. Send For Me does not go into depth about the hor­rors of the camps, but rather dwells on the fear and anguish sur­round­ing them. Where­as plen­ty of nov­els detail the bar­bar­i­ty of camps, this one is more con­cerned with the echoes of the Holo­caust, in par­tic­u­lar the lega­cy of fam­i­ly sep­a­ra­tion, and the unstitched wounds of part­ing from the dear­est peo­ple in one’s life.

The nar­ra­tive weaves between the per­spec­tives of Annelise and Clare, inter­spersed with Klara’s let­ters. While Clare’s con­tem­po­rary prob­lems may come across as more super­fi­cial com­pared to the plight of her ances­tors, the novel’s con­struc­tion proves that dev­as­tat­ing his­tor­i­cal cir­cum­stances don’t pre­clude young peo­ple from hav­ing their own con­cerns. She can nev­er admit it, hav­ing escaped with their lives, can nev­er admit how much it hurts to lose so many nice things,” Fox writes of Annelise’s guilt, her anguish not only rel­e­gat­ed to the peo­ple she has lost, but also the pos­ses­sions. It’s a thought-pro­vok­ing choice to show that suf­fer­ing does not make one explic­it­ly more moral, espe­cial­ly when Annelise nur­tures an attrac­tion to her hus­band Walter’s best friend.

One of the most affect­ing aspects of Send For Me is the depic­tion of moth­er-daugh­ter rela­tion­ships, in all their tumult and inti­ma­cy. Even when Klara’s relent­less effi­cien­cy leads her to become intol­er­ant of her own daugh­ter” because of Annelise’s dreami­ness, their bond is able to with­stand these fraught years. A young moth­er her­self, Annelise is con­sumed with despair when she must leave her moth­er to go to Amer­i­ca. As refugees from an ancient sor­row,” Clare and Ruth cling to each oth­er, as though to make up for what Klara and Annelise could nev­er have, to the point where Clare won’t let her­self leave the city of her birth to embark on a true adult life.

Send For Me is a tes­ta­ment to the inten­si­ty of moth­er­hood, height­ened in the con­text of inter­gen­er­a­tional grief. For any­one who shares a close con­nec­tion with or has lost one’s moth­er, this book will invoke an espe­cial­ly heart-rend­ing reac­tion. Send For Me is a nov­el about how the past lives in the way rela­tion­ships are formed, pat­terns are repeat­ed or bro­ken, and names are passed down.

Ariel­la Carmell is the Jew­ish Book Council’s sum­mer Edi­to­r­i­al Fel­low. She grad­u­at­ed from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go, where she stud­ied lit­er­a­ture and phi­los­o­phy. Her writ­ings have appeared in Alma, The Sier­ra Neva­da Review, The Brook­lyn Review, and sev­er­al oth­er publications.

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