Not many self-help books are written by writers in their nineties, but for those familiar with the work of Dr. Edith Eger, the publication of her most recent book, The Gift, will come as no surprise. She published her first book, The Choice, in 2017, and the world met an Auschwitz survivor who once danced for the monstrous Dr. Mengele, and who, to this day, still ends all of her lectures with a defiant dancer’s high kick.
Three years after her now classic memoir, Dr. Eger’s new work, The Gift, repeats many of the salient points of The Choice, centering around the idea that no matter how harsh our circumstances, we retain the choice to reinterpret them and give new meaning and purpose to our lives. But what it adds is a cogent set of rules to live by. Again, she stresses our ability to rise above the worst aspects of our lives, whatever they may be, and to choose not to define ourselves by them. The title alludes to this gift of restoration that we must all grant ourselves – freeing ourselves from the self-imposed prisons of memory, guilt, and sorrow. If a concentration camp survivor can rise from the ashes like a phoenix, she suggests, so can we. As Edith reflects on her encounters at Auschwitz, she poetically concludes: “I was blessed with the insight that the Nazis were more imprisoned than I was. […] The Nazis’ power came from systematic dehumanization and extermination. My strength and freedom were within.”
When Edith Eger talks about an inner sanctuary of “strength and freedom” from within, she knows better than anyone what these powerful words mean. In sharing them with the world, Dr. Eger has indeed given a gift. Her book does not merely teach the steps to a more perfect life; instead, she shows us how to face our setbacks, however cruel, by means of transcendence.
Sonia Taitz, a Ramaz, Yale Law, and Oxford graduate, is the author of five books, including the acclaimed “second generation” memoir, The Watchmaker’s Daughter, and the novel, Great with Child. Praised for her warmth and wit by Vanity Fair, The New York Times Book Review, People and The Chicago Tribune, she is currently working on a novel about the Zohar, the mystical source of Jewish transcendence.