A year ago, just before Holocaust Remembrance Day, I wrote a piece in these pages, "Their Stories, Our Stories," about the legacy of my family's Holocaust narrative as rendered in my novel, Even in Darkness. Since Even in Darkness was published, and as I look back on that post, I find that bringing my book to a national audience has deepened and broadened my understanding of how my great aunt's life story has impacted others, by educating me in the ways readers have interpreted and evaluated my novel. Authors rarely have the opportunity to express gratitude for readers' willingness to write reviews and take the time to send messages about their reactions to a book, so let me publicly thank the hundreds of readers who have written me and posted reviews. The following reader comments best illustrate what I've learned.
1. "The story draws you into the life of protagonist Kläre Ente from the very beginning. I felt like I had entered a lovingly-crafted tapestry torn by the horrors of war, but also filled with love and color, and vibrant with life." "Kläre demonstrates a strength of spirit one can only imagine, a love that seems to surpass the limits of the human soul, and a grace that carriers her through a time in history that we can scarcely understand, but should." I wrote Even in Darkness because I was so influenced by the life of my great aunt that I wanted to preserve her legacy. Readers "get" Kläre. She reminds them of inspiring people in their own lives. Her character has an impact beyond the book's plot.
2. "While reading stories of the Holocaust is usually an uncomfortable experience for me, this book revealed in an honest way the difficult choices and dilemmas faced by those who lived at that time." "What Stark-Nemon does is allow this story of the Holocaust, pieced together as historical fiction based on letters and photos she uncovered from family, unfold slowly, descriptively, as if it is happening to someone you know in real time. And therein lies the power. "Perhaps most inspiring are the moments of decency and quiet heroism in the midst of such horror and cruelty. This is the real heart of this story and I was deeply moved by these moments." Readers were not defeated by the representation of the Holocaust in Even in Darkness. Without ignoring the horror, readers were able to relate to the very human stories of the characters - on a personal level. During Passover, we are exhorted to tell the story of the Exodus as if we had been there ourselves. Readers learn about terrible times in a meaningful way when fiction can draw them in personally.
3."This is a truly inspiring story of the healing and restorative power of love." "I finished reading the book with a quiet sense of joy that is rare in this literary world of bleak endings and over-simple conclusions" Love, grace, and the resilience of the human spirit resonate with readers no matter the genre or the particular time and place of a story. These thematic elements, which were so important to me, were important to readers as well.
4. "One of the best books I've read. I didn't want to put it down." "I just spent the day reading your book, one of those couldn't-put-it-downers." "It kept me rapt and not wanting to put it down." Kläre's story, the story of my family and my heart truly is compelling to others... others who are not my family and friends.
5. "This is a stunning piece of literature, and a historically important book. Above all, it is a compelling human tale about the depths of good and evil and how both can be found where you least expect them." Life is unpredictable, and we never know where stories of love and redemption will claim victory over loss and suffering. Kläre's legacy is launched..