Each of us has secrets, but some secrets lie deep yet have a penetrating effect on our lives and those of our loved ones. Shanghai Legacy is a story about secrets, intentions, fractured relationships, and transformation.
Maya, who takes care of her ill mother Hannah, is bitter about their strained, often crushed relationship. When Hannah dies, Maya goes through her belongings and finds a series of documents written in German hidden inside a piece of furniture. Sam, a lawyer turned antiques dealer, comes to the home to appraise this piece of furniture, befriends Maya and offers to translate these papers for her. What he finds is a diary from 1938 dealing with her mother’s painful experience of moving to Shanghai, which Jews were at the time allowed to enter without a visa. Through these pages, Maya discovers the challenges that her mother faced, living in substandard conditions, while watching her family, which was once well-to-do in Germany, be reduced in status and power. As the mystery of Hannah’s life unfolds, Maya finds herself questioning her relationship with her husband, a respected doctor who drinks too much. Ultimately, the reading of Hannah’s diary has a transforming and freeing power on Maya as she begins to examine the meaning of her own life and her relationships with her now deceased mother and with her family.
Shanghai Legacy offers an interesting look into the time of the Holocaust when Jews were forced to flee, and the conditions under which they lived. Cuba’s engrossing novel provides the reader with a fascinating account of Jews living in Shanghai during the Nazi era.