I do not regret that I spent last days of 2016 on reading A Smile in One Eye, A Tear in the Other because the book was the biggest surprise of the last year!
We need more books like A Smile in One Eye, A Tear in the Other because an accounts of people who survived unbelievable atrocities of the World War II should not be forgotten. Survivors and those who lost their lives deserve the highest respect. Moreover, we should never trivialize what people are capable because the history has showed us many times that those who were underestimated committed horrifying things. Last but not the least, we should never take anything for granted. Today we live happy life but tomorrow we might be victims of international conflicts, terrorist attacks or domestic upheavals.
This beautiful book tells the story of a Jewish Family in the Nazi Germany. When the Hitler seized the power, the affluent and happy Wobsers family had to find a way to escape the madness of destruction. The family lived in small Prussian town where they enjoyed prosperous life. Although they were Lutherans, they were told they were Jews, who did not belong to German nation. Their emotional attachment and patriotis for their country did not matter; they started to be defined by race. Wobsers lost everything they worked for. Their properties and money disappeared. People’s respect, which Wobsers enjoyed for decades, disappeared too.
Ralph Webster writes in two narratives. First, written from the perspective of this father Gerhard Udo Albert Wobser, who at the age 16 fled to the West. Looking for the refuge abroad was the only chance for him to survive the War. It was heart- breaking to read that he lost contact with all his family for many years. He did not know if his parents and siblings were still alive. When the War was over, he was able to find some of his relatives, the others did not survive… The story is told with the historical events in the background, which make this book more powerful and make the readers to understand better the tragic situation of the family.
The chapters telling the story of Wobsers are followed by Ralph Webster’s memoir about the last days of his father’s life. It has very personal dimension and it is beautiful. I think this part of the book might offer a kind of solace to those who are dealing with lose of their beloved ones.
On the other hand, I have small comment on book design. I think that the author spent too much time on description of Gerhard’s childhood. At some moment, I got confused and I was not sure where the book was going. Personally, I would prefer to read more about Gerhard’s time in the British army.
I think the cover is perfect. Simple and humble covers always suit ambitious books. Moreover, meaningful tittle on the black background makes the book even more powerful.
I encourage everyone to read A Smile in One Eye, A Tear in the Other because this is beautiful and valuable book.
I would like to mention a person that came to my mind while reading this book. I hope the author does not mind it. There was Auschwitz camp survivor in my hometown in Poland. He never talked to anyone about his experience. Nobody knew what happened to him and what he witnessed. When he received invitation from local school to give a speech to the student about Auschwitz, he refused it. I assume that what he went through was too horrible to talk about. We should pay tribute to people like him, or Gerhard Wobser and all other victims of the War.
The overall rating: well- deserved 5/5
I received the book from the author in exchange for honest review.