Send For Me

Lauren Fox’s Send For Me (Knopf $27) has justly received rave reviews. It’s a bifurcated multi-generational story of a young Jewish woman in Nazi Germany, her parents, and her granddaughter. Riveting, somber, and tragic, the editing is taut, the writing crisp, and with only about 70,000 words, you’ll wish for more.

Everyone knows of the millions dispatched in the Holocaust, the camps, rail cars packed with starving people, and the gas chambers, but the sheer pettiness of the oppression early in the regime’s life is almost equally distressing. Annelise and her parents run a bakery. Her first boyfriend stirs teenage love. She is an excellent student, up before dawn to bake, then sell pastries for breakfast.

But gradually the discrimination begins, then comes the boycott of their business. Even her best friend growing up shuns her. The family fears they will lose their apartment and savings. Annelise’s boyfriend is forced to sell his business for almost nothing. They arrange for her to flee to America, but getting Annelise struggles to get parents out of Germany. This subplot plays vividly and lingers long after Annelise is safely in Milwaukee, though it soon becomes obvious the elderly couple are hopelessly stranded in Germany.

Fox interposes the granddaughter’s story, which of course is perhaps mundane in comparison. She’s independent and struggling to find love, when she meets a Brit working temporarily in the U.S. Does she love him enough to leave her parents? Reside in London? Participate in raising his son with him? Not a bad tale but not a great one, nevertheless, offering a stark generational contrast. The book is unforgettable and highly recommended.