The Res­cuer

  • Review
By – March 20, 2012

Dara Horn is an acclaimed young writer who has toured with all three of her nov­els, In the ImageThe World to Come and All Oth­er Nightsfor the Jew­ish Book Net­work. Now she has teamed up with Tablet Mag­a­zine to pub­lish a Kin­dle Sin­gle’ – an online-only short book about the lit­tle known human­i­tar­i­an activist Var­i­an Fry. Horn ini­tial­ly found Fry’s sto­ry intrigu­ing because of their shared back­ground, although they are gen­er­a­tions apart. Like Horn, Fry hails from a sub­ur­ban New Jer­sey town and grad­u­at­ed from Har­vard. She jokes that if they had been in col­lege at the same time, she might have dat­ed him.

Although Fry’s deeds were equal in hero­ism to those of the cel­e­brat­ed Oskar Schindler, Fry nev­er achieved Schindler’s renown. He risked his life to res­cue two thou­sand of Europe’s top artists, writ­ers, musi­cians, sci­en­tists, and philoso­phers and their fam­i­lies, includ­ed such nota­bles as Han­nah Arendt, Marc Cha­gall, Mar­cel Duchamp, Max Ernst, and Claude Levi-Strauss. 

Fry vol­un­teered to go to France after it fell to the Nazis on behalf of a group of Amer­i­can intel­lec­tu­als who were try­ing to res­cue Euro­pean cul­ture. His mis­sion was to find spe­cif­ic endan­gered peo­ple in order to dis­trib­ute emer­gency Amer­i­can visas to them. Although nev­er rec­og­nized in his time, he was final­ly hon­ored by Yad Vashem in 1997 as a Right­eous Gen­tile, one of the few Amer­i­cans to receive this distinction.

Horn delves into the rea­sons why some­one becomes a good Samar­i­tan.” She dis­cuss­es Fry’s back­ground and per­son­al­i­ty, his moti­va­tions, the moral­i­ty of the mis­sion in terms of decid­ing who should be res­cued, and details of the mis­sion itself. This is a fas­ci­nat­ing account of one man’s deci­sion to jump in and help oth­ers total­ly unre­lat­ed to him dur­ing a ter­ri­fy­ing time, when few would even con­sid­er such an option. 

Horn’s writ­ing is intel­li­gent and acces­si­ble, with injec­tions of her wry sense of humor. This short read should appeal to any­one curi­ous to learn about a true unsung hero. Read­ing The Res­cuer pro­vid­ed me with two firsts: an oppor­tu­ni­ty to sam­ple the author’s non-fic­tion and to try out my first vir­tu­al book. As a lover of Horn’s his­tor­i­cal fic­tion and as a die hard fan of the good old paper book, I was ten­ta­tive about this ven­ture, which turned out to be quite a success! 

At $1.99 you have noth­ing to lose and every­thing to gain by pur­chas­ing this Kin­dle Sin­gle, which can be down­loaded to any e‑reader. A caveat: if you’re look­ing for page num­bers or chap­ters you’ll be dis­ap­point­ed. I can only tell you that there are 745 loca­tions” to this work, what­ev­er that means.

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.

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