Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson

Tweet:  A taut and compelling novel about family and betrayal during the Holocaust.  An important story for young adult and mature readers alike.

     Once We Were Brothers opens with Ben Solomon, an 83 year old Holocaust survivor, stuffing a Lugar into his tuxedo cummerbund and heading to the Chicago Lyric Opera opening night gala.  Once there, Ben seeks out Elliot Rosenzweig, a wealthy scion of Chicago business and philanthropy, points the gun at him and publicly accuses him of being a Nazi named Otto Piatek.  Elliot, also a Holocaust survivor, refuses to press criminal charges although he adamantly denies being a Nazi.  However Ben, firm in his conviction, retains attorney Catherine Lockhart to sue Rosenzweig for stealing his family's property during the war. 

     The rest of the novel alternates between Ben's narrative of growing up with Otto Piatek in Poland and Catherine's legal maneuverings to pursue Ben's claim.  Ben's story of his family before and during the Nazi occupation is a compelling page turner.  Because Catherine seems to have little knowledge of the Holocaust, Ben carefully tells of his family's actions and motivations.  He explains why they initially chose not to leave Poland, and sensitively describes the war's increasing horrors in a manner more harrowing than graphic.  At the heart of the story is Ben's relationship with Otto, who was raised by Ben's family but ultimately betrays them.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What to Read Next: BEA Speed Dating

     I've just returned from BookExpo America, the largest annual trade show where publishers showcase their new titles for booksellers, librarians, media members and book industry professionals.  I saw plenty of celebrities (Jim Carrey, Snookie and Grumpy Cat, to name a few), met famous authors (like Elizabeth Gilbert and Scott Turow) and schmoozed with some of publishings' biggest bigwigs.  I also attended several seminars and panel discussions.  One of my favorites was the Book Group Speed Dating sponsored by ReadingGroupGuides.com.

     For the session, I sat at a round table with other sellers, librarians and  book group leaders.  Every nine minutes a different publisher representative rotated to our table to preview upcoming titles.  Each presenter's enthusiasm was contagious, and although I know I won't get to all of them, here are some of the books I'm especially looking forward to reading: