The Blurb (from Goodreads):
Seventy years after her grandmother helped hide a Jewish family on a Greek island during World War II, a woman sets out to track down their descendants—and discovers a new way to understand tragedy, forgiveness, and the power of kindness.
Yvette Manessis Corporon grew up listening to her grandmother’s stories about how the people of the small Greek island Erikousa hid a Jewish family—a tailor named Savvas and his daughters—from the Nazis during World War II. Nearly 2,000 Jews from that area died in the concentration camps, but even though everyone on Erikousa knew Savvas and his family were hiding on the island, no one ever gave them up, and the family survived the war.
Years later, Yvette couldn’t get the story of the Jewish tailor out of her head. She decided to track down the man’s descendants—and eventually found them in Israel. Their tearful reunion was proof to her that evil doesn’t always win. But just days after she made the connection, her cousin’s child was gunned down in a parking lot in Kansas, a victim of a Neo-Nazi out to inflict as much harm as he could. Despite her best hopes, she was forced to confront the fact that seventy years after the Nazis were defeated, it was still happening today.
As Yvette and her family wrestled with the tragedy in their own lives, the lessons she learned from the survivors of the Holocaust helped her confront and make sense of the present.
In beautifully told interweaving storylines, the past and present come together in a nuanced, heartfelt story about the power of faith, the importance of kindness, and the courage to stand up for what’s right in the face of great evil.
I picked up this book because I’m currently working on a novel set in Greece during World War II, and am interested in reading more stories about that terrible time.
Yvette Manessis Corporon grew up listening to the story of how her grandparents helped save the lives of a Jewish family on their small Greek island of Erikousa, near Corfu. After the war, her grandparents moved to the US and lost contact with the family whom they saved. As she grows up, Yvette begins to wonder about what happened to them – they moved away too but no-one knows where. Her work as a journalist means Yvette is used to searching out stories. She begins to dig, and runs into many dead-ends, but becomes more and more determined to find out what happened to them. She hopes the family, who lost so much, has found peace and happiness, and given birth to new generations.
During her long search, a terrible tragedy in her own family makes it clear to her that hatred and prejudice and evil still exist in the world – her husband’s cousin loses both her father and her son in a neo-Nazi shooting attack. The shock and sorrow and disbelief at this senseless act of violence reverberates throughout her family and life, and makes the search for the descendants of the family her ancestors saved seem even more important.
The two stories interweave together, in a powerful and moving story of courage, kindness and faith, that had me in tears. A really surprising and heartfelt memoir that shows that the past lives in us still.
You might also like to read my review of Mermaids Singing here: