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The Lost Family

Review

The Lost Family

THE LOST FAMILY is a gripping family saga tracing the impact of World War II through the generations of one family. The story is at times funny and charming, but also bittersweet and indescribably sad.

The protagonist, Peter Rashkin, was first introduced in a novella by Jenna Blum included in the book GRAND CENTRAL: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion, a compilation of stories by 10 bestselling authors all set in Grand Central Terminal on the same post-WWII day. It is in this story that we meet Peter working at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central. (As a point of interest, the other authors included in the book are Melanie Benjamin, Amanda Hodgkinson, Pam Jenoff, Sarah Jio, Sarah McCoy, Kristina McMorris, Alyson Richman, Erika Robuck and Karen White.)

"THE LOST FAMILY is touching, transformative and heartbreaking.... Jenna’s writing is entirely delicious!"

THE LOST FAMILY opens in 1965, about 20 years after Peter’s GRAND CENTRAL story. He remains a wounded soul, still haunted and mourning the family he lost in the war. His wife, Masha, and their two daughters are the unseen characters threading throughout the tale. It is not necessary to have read the novella to love and appreciate THE LOST FAMILY as the stories stand alone, though certainly his experiences in 1945 inform and influence his character and story later.

Blum says of Peter that “he was inspired by a survivor I had the immense privilege of interviewing for the Steven Spielberg Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation. We know about the Nazi atrocities, but we rarely consider the next chapter: the survivor coming to a new country to rebuild --- while coping with the memory of the loved ones he lost. And when a weeping reader told me that her husband, a survivor’s son, had grappled his whole life with his beloved father’s emotional distance, I knew I had to write about the effects of war on an entire family.”

THE LOST FAMILY is touching, transformative and heartbreaking. It takes the reader through three decades --- 1965, 1975 and 1985 --- with each told from one character’s viewpoint: first Peter, then his second wife, June Bouquet, and lastly their daughter, Elsbeth. In each part, in addition to the story, I thoroughly enjoyed the cultural tidbits, popular language and references of each era. I remember those tennis socks with the balls at the heels.

Jenna’s writing is entirely delicious! Besides being an author, she is an avid cook and creates and tests her own recipes used in the story. She even constructed whole menus for Peter’s restaurant, which she includes in the book. While writing THE LOST FAMILY, she was using ingredients from her garden, and at one point her agent asked if she was growing rosemary. Jenna responded that, yes, she had huge bushes of it. Her agent suspected this because nearly every recipe included the herb. Thanks to Jenna for that fun story shared at her book launch this month in Boston.

Book clubs and historical fiction fans, along with lovers of good storytelling, will not want to miss THE LOST FAMILY.

Reviewed by Leah DeCesare (www.leahdecesare.com) on June 22, 2018

The Lost Family
by Jenna Blum

  • Publication Date: June 5, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0062742167
  • ISBN-13: 9780062742162