That's a difficult situation for most but particularly so in Annette's case as it occurred in Germany in the 1980's, when memories of WWII were still fresh in the minds of the Jewish people who lived there as well as the German Christians. The reader is pulled into the life of these two young people who fall in love with the odds against them. In her family, it feels like history repeating itself as Annette's great-aunt married a Jewish man in 1938 which caused difficulties for all of the family during those war years.
The book moves back and forth between the 1980's and the 1930-40's with fascinating pieces of the author's family history. The parallels of the two situations keep the reader's attention. We want to know how Annette's story will turn out. Will she be more fortunate than her great-aunt?
The author knew her own story, of course, but learned much of the family history from journals that her grandfather wrote as well as searching records in Germany and visiting cemeteries to search through more records.
Annette and Harry kept their relationship a secret for three years. Finally, they had to reveal their feelings and hopes for marriage to both families. Can her German Christian family accept the man she loves? Can Harry’s family give their blessing? Can she, and will she, convert to Judaism? How easy or how difficult would that be?
The author's fine writing brings this story to life. The end of one chapter makes the reader want to go right on reading. Many family photos make a fine addition. This is a well-written memoir that I would recommend even if the author was not a personal friend.
I had the joy of spending a little time with Annette at my online writing group conference a couple of weeks ago. She gave a presentation one morning titled Turning Family History Into Compelling Stories. That is exactly what she accomplished with her own family history for her story is most compelling.
Annette Gendler is the author of Jumping Over Shadows, the memoir of a German-Jewish love that overcame the burdens of the past. Her writing and photography have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Tablet Magazine, Bella Grace and Artful Blogging. She served as the 2014–2015 writer-in-residence at the Hemingway Birthplace Home in Oak Park, Illinois, and has been teaching memoir writing at StoryStudio Chicago since 2006. She lives in Chicago with her husband and three children.