Alan Weisman writes his 1999 memoir, ECHO IN MY BLOOD, from a perspective of knowledge rooted in intense research. The book, laced with stories of his life's work and mission, is the result of his detective work to solve a nagging question. That mystery surrounds the legend his father tells of how Communists murdered his grandfather in the Ukraine in 1918.
A search for his place in the web of a complicated family history takes Weisman to far reaches of the globe. Weisman the journalist chronicles events in Columbia, Antarctica, Chernobyl, Moscow, and finally, MalaViska in the Ukraine. It is in MalaViska that he unravels the mystery surrounding his father's story.
Thorough research backs up Weisman's findings. He delves into the time period of 1905, in Ukraine, when his grandfather was 18 years old. At that time, five flags were raised over Ukraine: Ukrainian Nationalist, Bolshevik, Galacia, Polish (for Poles who claimed the country for their own), and that of a "white army" that designed to re-institute the monarchy of Mother Russia. Jews were the loathed minority throughout these occupations. The region was rich in black earth in which to grow sugar beets and grain. Weisman's grandfather was a businessman, a land owner subject to huge financial losses during political leadership changes.
As Weisman journals, "children inherit not just the legacies our elders impart but a void left by what they withhold. Instinctively, we yearn to fill it."
When he burns the midnight oil for countless hours to prove the accounts rendered by his elders, he unearths truths in his own life that corroborate his choices. Themes he chooses to write about --- immigration, orphans, violence, and displacement --- reflect experiences of his ancestors in a different place and time.Ý
His eyes opened to profound understanding, Weisman sees an inherent guilt when people fail to overcome the circumstances that lead to exile. The shame is especially acute when they feel betrayed by the homeland. The author realizes that the fabrication chosen by his father is but a veil to cover realities he ignores.Ý
The memoir is rich with historical facts. The widely published Weisman leaves no doubt that he is well qualified to unravel his family's rich history. We gain rich insight into feelings of an American Jew who resurrects his heritage from times and lands unknown to him.Ý
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad (Gigstadjudy@hotmail.com) on January 21, 2011