A gorgeous first novel that traces the courageous coming of age of a young Jewish woman under the influence of her parents’ Holocaust experience, recorded in the fading photographs and film reels buried in her father’s closet.
A smart Jewish woman's quest for love is intertwined with her need for self-knowledge in Sucher's ambitious but uneven debut. Fledgling movie producer Rachel Wallfisch, the child of Holocaust survivors, is about to marry a well-meaning young man her father adores (he's Jewish and rich), but she isn't entirely convinced that she's in love with him. Three weeks into the making of her first film, Rachel learns her beloved aunt Tsenyeh has died. As Rachel travels to Israel for the funeral, the narrative shifts to her childhood in Long Island, where, as a young girl, she stands by helplessly one afternoon as her mother collapses, the victim of a debilitating terminal illness. This infirmity creates a gulf between mother and daughter that is never breached. At the same time, Rachel struggles to emerge from the suffocating love of her father, a well-intentioned but overbearing man who haunts her childhood with bedtime stories about Auschwitz. Only after she's taken her wedding vows is Rachel able to reconcile her family's terrifying past with her future. Genuine emotions--anger, fear and love--course through this fluent narrative of loss and discovery, and there are some special moments too, such as when Rachel's sister explains that she can't go all the way with a boy because she keeps picturing her grandmother looking on, her feet soaking in Epsom salts. But the action remains somewhat stagey, too obviously constructed to trigger emotional release, and pockets of overwriting shout down the story's more subtle reaches for wisdom.