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A memoir of family, the Holocaust, trauma, and identity, in which Adam Frankel, a former Obama speechwriter, must come to terms with the legacy of his family’s painful past and discover who he is in the wake of a life-changing revelation about his own origins. Adam Frankel’s maternal grandparents survived the Holocaust and built new lives, with new names, in Connecticut. Th A memoir of family, the Holocaust, trauma, and identity, in which Adam Frankel, a former Obama speechwriter, must come to terms with the legacy of his family’s painful past and discover who he is in the wake of a life-changing revelation about his own origins. Adam Frankel’s maternal grandparents survived the Holocaust and built new lives, with new names, in Connecticut. Though they tried to leave the horrors of their past behind, the pain they suffered crossed generational lines—a fact most apparent in the mental health of Adam’s mother. When Adam sat down with her to examine their family history in detail, he learned another shocking secret, this time one that unraveled Adam’s entire understanding of who he is. In the midst of piecing together a story of inherited familial trauma, Adam discovered he was only half of who he thought he was, knowledge that raised essential questions of identity. Who was he, if not his father’s son? If not part of a rich heritage of writers and public servants? Does it matter? What defines a family’s bonds? What will he pass on to his own children? To rewrite his story in truth and to build a life for his own young family, Adam had to navigate his pain to find answers and a way forward. Throughout this journey into the past, his family’s psyche, and his own understanding of identity, Adam comes to realize that while the nature of our families’ traumas may vary, each of us is faced with the same choice. We can turn away from what we’ve inherited—or, we can confront it, in the hopes of moving on and stopping that trauma from inflicting pain on future generations. The stories Adam shares with us in The Survivors are about the ways the past can haunt our future, the resilience that can be found on the other side of trauma, and the good that can come from things that are unspeakably bad.


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A memoir of family, the Holocaust, trauma, and identity, in which Adam Frankel, a former Obama speechwriter, must come to terms with the legacy of his family’s painful past and discover who he is in the wake of a life-changing revelation about his own origins. Adam Frankel’s maternal grandparents survived the Holocaust and built new lives, with new names, in Connecticut. Th A memoir of family, the Holocaust, trauma, and identity, in which Adam Frankel, a former Obama speechwriter, must come to terms with the legacy of his family’s painful past and discover who he is in the wake of a life-changing revelation about his own origins. Adam Frankel’s maternal grandparents survived the Holocaust and built new lives, with new names, in Connecticut. Though they tried to leave the horrors of their past behind, the pain they suffered crossed generational lines—a fact most apparent in the mental health of Adam’s mother. When Adam sat down with her to examine their family history in detail, he learned another shocking secret, this time one that unraveled Adam’s entire understanding of who he is. In the midst of piecing together a story of inherited familial trauma, Adam discovered he was only half of who he thought he was, knowledge that raised essential questions of identity. Who was he, if not his father’s son? If not part of a rich heritage of writers and public servants? Does it matter? What defines a family’s bonds? What will he pass on to his own children? To rewrite his story in truth and to build a life for his own young family, Adam had to navigate his pain to find answers and a way forward. Throughout this journey into the past, his family’s psyche, and his own understanding of identity, Adam comes to realize that while the nature of our families’ traumas may vary, each of us is faced with the same choice. We can turn away from what we’ve inherited—or, we can confront it, in the hopes of moving on and stopping that trauma from inflicting pain on future generations. The stories Adam shares with us in The Survivors are about the ways the past can haunt our future, the resilience that can be found on the other side of trauma, and the good that can come from things that are unspeakably bad.

30 review for The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    This book is pretty raw and very well written. Adam Frankel’s book is divided into 3 parts; War, Inheritance, and Healing. Each division is a fascinating part of his history and, besides the specifics, the theory can be applied to all of us. His hypothesis is that trauma affects many generations. This is explored in Part II. Part I gives a brief history of Frankel’s Jewish maternal grandparents and their families during WWII, concentrating heavily on his grandfather, Gershon, his father, mother, This book is pretty raw and very well written. Adam Frankel’s book is divided into 3 parts; War, Inheritance, and Healing. Each division is a fascinating part of his history and, besides the specifics, the theory can be applied to all of us. His hypothesis is that trauma affects many generations. This is explored in Part II. Part I gives a brief history of Frankel’s Jewish maternal grandparents and their families during WWII, concentrating heavily on his grandfather, Gershon, his father, mother, brothers and sisters. There are horrors but the author assumes the reader knows enough about the concentration camps to not enumerate many of them. He provides facts relevant to the family which I am carefully avoiding who survives and who does not. What is of particular interest, however, is that Gershon, the author’s grandfather, is involved in something during his time in a Displaced Persons camp that, later, provides a small snapshot of why he and his wife emigrated from Europe very quickly and with the added expense of taking on new identities. This adds to the secrecy and the culture of never discussing what happened in Europe beyond the Holocaust. There were subjects that simply were not discussed. Zayde (formerly Gershon) and family immigrate to the U.S., raise 4 children including Adam’s mother who meets Adam’s father and they get married. Part 2 is the bridge between the generation of trauma (Holocaust) to the author. He examines his family as he gains awareness that there is something different about them. He discovers that his grandparents chose a neighborhood that had other Jewish Holocaust survivors who carry similar characteristics. As an adult, he does his own research on trauma and epigenetics or how trauma is stored in the DNA. What leads him to this query is the dawning understanding that his mother is severely mentally ill. Her logic is skewed, her reality different, and her moods are traumatizing on Adam. It is during this time that Adam unravels the greatest secret that changes how he views his previous life - a trauma for him. He now has a before and after. Part 3 is more of reckoning and accepting who he is and all of the past that shaped him. There is joy, pain, trauma, and healing. This is what makes us resilient. This part is really raw and the author must deal with the different generations of his family as he works through this yet mindful of Zayde and his relationships and history. The book is deeply personal and the journey is quite an undertaking. Regardless of being such a personal story, I found myself underlining many AHA moments. One in particular is the idea that, if trauma can impact for generations, the counterpart must also be true. Healing will also impact generations. One paragraph reminded me of an experience I when I visited a place called “Winter Quarters” on a church history trip fresh out of high school. Within a few steps of leaving the bus, a grief washed over me that was so heavy and visceral. I wandered alone for an hour, sobbing. A statue of a couple standing over a very small open grave brought me to my knees. My heart was shattered. I had no idea why. When we drove away, the grief lifted and I was back to myself. I was confused why I had fallen apart there. Decades later I joined the crowd and started doing some genealogy. I stumbled upon a fascinating ancestor that crossed the plains at the age of 7. He lived a colorful an interesting life. After satisfying my curiosity of this intriguing ancestor, I was ready to stop reading when something caught my eye. Samual Alonzo Whitney, my ancestor, had left Nauvoo, Illinois with his mother, Henrietta, a recent widow, and his little brother, age 4. All were exposed to the elements and both boys were very ill. Henrietta carried one or both of them most of the 300 miles, arriving at Winter Quarters in a blizzard. 4 year old Don Carlos Whitney died three days later. Was that grief written into my DNA? No other place has impacted me on that level although, ironically, Dachau came pretty close. Was it healing to my ancestors and descendants to recognize and remember Don Carlos? Yes, the book is personal, but I found my own personal journey within the pages. I received a copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I wanted to read this after hearing Adam Frankel on an episode of Family Secrets (Dani Shapiro's podcast). This book is split into three parts, yet still seemed disjointed. It was hard to remember in what order some things happened. I find it very hard to give a star rating to a memoir. Part of me wants to give them all five stars for putting their whole lives out there in a book. Another part of me wonders if it's really appropriate and fair to all those it affects. Another part of me thinks th I wanted to read this after hearing Adam Frankel on an episode of Family Secrets (Dani Shapiro's podcast). This book is split into three parts, yet still seemed disjointed. It was hard to remember in what order some things happened. I find it very hard to give a star rating to a memoir. Part of me wants to give them all five stars for putting their whole lives out there in a book. Another part of me wonders if it's really appropriate and fair to all those it affects. Another part of me thinks that it's a great way for people to feel like they are not alone. If just one person is helped, then it's all worth it. And, yet another part of me just wants to remember if I liked it or not. For me it was three stars. I liked it, but didn't love it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Beth

    I received an uncorrected proof copy of this book from HarperCollins. Part family history, part memoir, this moving work of non-fiction details the stories of the author's maternal grandparents who survived the Holocaust to build new lives in Connecticut. Yet the scars inflicted upon his grandparents had lasting effects on his grandparents, his mother, and on Adam himself. In this book, author Adam Frankel explores his family history, the familial trauma he inherited, his relationship with his p I received an uncorrected proof copy of this book from HarperCollins. Part family history, part memoir, this moving work of non-fiction details the stories of the author's maternal grandparents who survived the Holocaust to build new lives in Connecticut. Yet the scars inflicted upon his grandparents had lasting effects on his grandparents, his mother, and on Adam himself. In this book, author Adam Frankel explores his family history, the familial trauma he inherited, his relationship with his parents, and how he defines who he is. Adam's grandparents' story was horrific in the way that only Holocaust survivor stories can be. Their response to nearly being killed and watching many others die was to start completely over in a new country, with new names, and to avoid telling their stories of the war as much as possible. They were close knit and suspicious of others, passing that on to their daughter, Adam's mother, who experienced many bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts throughout his childhood and young adult period. While hard to read, my favorite part of this book was the historical section where Adam details his grandparents' war experiences. Later sections of the book read more like contemplative memoir. While obviously all interconnected, in other ways it felt like multiple memoirs that had been pieced together. Also fascinating was Frankel's career as a presidential speech writer for Barack Obama. In short, Frankel contains multitudes and could easily have written multiple books: one for his grandparents' story, one for his complicated relationship with his parents, and yet a third for his career. A moving memoir of immense loss and the reverberations through the generations. Ultimately, Frankel concludes that you cannot ruin from your trauma but must stand to face it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Meg W

    Very self-aware author for his age. A bit scattered at times but I was able to see how he was trying to pull everything together into one, overarching, connected story. Fascinating yet all-too-common story of a family affected by generations of hurt and tragedy.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lissa

    The Holocaust wasn’t something that simply happened, but is an event that’s still happening. - Daniel Mendelsohn Of course I wrote a long, thoughtful review about this book and then Goodreads ate it. Sigh. Amazon was having a 3-for-2 deal, where you bought two qualifying books and you received a third for free. I'd never heard of this book before then, but as soon as I read the blurb and the first few pages, I knew that I wanted this book in my life. The author is a 3G Shoah survivor (his maternal The Holocaust wasn’t something that simply happened, but is an event that’s still happening. - Daniel Mendelsohn Of course I wrote a long, thoughtful review about this book and then Goodreads ate it. Sigh. Amazon was having a 3-for-2 deal, where you bought two qualifying books and you received a third for free. I'd never heard of this book before then, but as soon as I read the blurb and the first few pages, I knew that I wanted this book in my life. The author is a 3G Shoah survivor (his maternal grandparents both suffered things that no human being should ever have to suffer during WW2 and then came to America for a new start), and this book is about his grandparents' trauma and how it rippled through the family in subsequent generations. Reading this book almost felt like I was reading my own story in parts. (view spoiler)[Alas, my father is my biological father, no matter how I might wish it otherwise. One look in the mirror at my gray eyes and frizzy hair tells me all that I need to know. I can't imagine how awful it would be to have a father you actually loved and who loved you, only to discover as an adult that he is not your biological father. (hide spoiler)] But the survivor grandparents (singular, in my case), the house full of secrets that the adults seemed to know but never shared, the mentally ill mother whom you can't trust to take care of you...oh yes, those all sound very familiar to me. It's easy to think of the Holocaust as something that has a definite end date. Real life isn't so simple, though. I like to think of families as large, still ponds. Traumas are rocks thrown into the pond. Some rocks are small and barely disturb the water. Some are larger and create wavelets that last a long time. And sometimes, there's a meteor that falls from the sky and displaces half of the water in the pond, forever altering the landscape and the flow of water in the pond. The Holocaust is a giant meteor. It affects the children and grandchildren of survivors in ways you can't even begin to imagine unless you are there. The evidence is still being gathered and studied by the scientific community, but I can at least say, in my experience, that shit does NOT go away. It manifests itself in a hundred little ways. For example, to this day, when the doorbell rings unexpectedly, I freak out and hide. My palms sweat, my pulse races, I start planning an exit strategy from my house, I am infused with pure adrenaline, and every single cell in me starts preparing to fight to the death. Why? My mail carrier is mostly likely not intending to harm me, and even if she is, I can easily outrun her. Because my grandmother, as a very small child, remembers Nazis ringing the doorbell of her apartment when they came looking for her father. Because those men found my great-grandfather and tortured him to death. Because my grandmother does the same thing to this day whenever her doorbell rings unexpectedly, and so do her children, and so do I. And that is just one example. You have children and grandchildren who are being raised by people who suffered such great traumas in their earlier lives that it has warped the entire world for them. It isn't their fault. But still it persists. There are some studies that suggest that mental illness is higher in the second and third generations of survivors. (view spoiler)[Although never officially diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, the author's mother seems to suffer from it. I thought as he described his childhood that it was more than "just depression," although I am no therapist, and I wasn't surprised at all when he came to the conclusion that she likely has BPD. And guess what one of the "warning signs" is for developing BPD? Being exposed to a lot of fear and stress in childhood. And there is a LOT of fear and stress in many Shoah survivor families, let me tell you. I may be 3G, but I was mostly raised by a survivor who has NEVER come to terms with the fact that she IS a survivor, so I often consider myself to be 2G. And guess who also has BPD? Oh come on, guess. Yep. Me. (hide spoiler)] I read some reviews of this book about how the author should show more compassion, should have kept some things to himself, should have let sleeping dogs lie, should grow a tougher skin. Meh on them. It's very easy to judge when you haven't grown up this way. I'm amazed that the author was able to write so openly and candidly about such painful things. It's extremely hard to show the tender parts of yourself to anyone and everyone who might pick up this book. I'd recommend this memoir to anyone, but especially to descendants of Shoah survivors.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    I have received a copy of this book by Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review. Today's post is on The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing by Adam P. Frankel. it is 288 pages long and is published by Harper Collins. The cover is red with a leafless tree in the center. The intended reader is someone who is interested in family memoirs. There is mild foul language, discussions of sex, and no violence in this book. There Be Spoilers Ahead. From the back of the book- Adam Frank I have received a copy of this book by Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review. Today's post is on The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing by Adam P. Frankel. it is 288 pages long and is published by Harper Collins. The cover is red with a leafless tree in the center. The intended reader is someone who is interested in family memoirs. There is mild foul language, discussions of sex, and no violence in this book. There Be Spoilers Ahead. From the back of the book- Adam Frankel’s maternal grandparents survived the Holocaust and built new lives, with new names, in Connecticut. Though they tried to leave the horrors of their past behind, the pain they suffered crossed generational lines—a fact most apparent in the mental health of Adam’s mother. When Adam sat down with her to examine their family history in detail, he learned another shocking secret, this time one that unraveled Adam’s entire understanding of who he is. In the midst of piecing together a story of inherited familial trauma, Adam discovered he was only half of who he thought he was, knowledge that raised essential questions of identity. Who was he, if not his father’s son? If not part of a rich heritage of writers and public servants? Does it matter? What defines a family’s bonds? What will he pass on to his own children? To rewrite his story in truth and to build a life for his own young family, Adam had to navigate his pain to find answers and a way forward. Throughout this journey into the past, his family’s psyche, and his own understanding of identity, Adam comes to realize that while the nature of our families’ traumas may vary, each of us is faced with the same choice. We can turn away from what we’ve inherited—or, we can confront it, in the hopes of moving on and stopping that trauma from inflicting pain on future generations. The stories Adam shares with us in The Survivors are about the ways the past can haunt our future, the resilience that can be found on the other side of trauma, and the good that can come from things that are unspeakably bad. Review- An memoir about a family, trauma, mental illness, and finding the people you love. The two sides of Adam Frankel's family are very different and the differences are extremely important to the story of his life. Frankel's mother's side of the family survived the Holocaust and of course were changed by it. But most of the story is not about the Holocaust but about Frankel discovering that the man who raised him was not his biological father. He is deeply affected by this and every relationship in his life is changed by the knowledge. Add in his mother's untreated mental illness and his life has so much chaos in it. Frankel is very honest about what happened in his life, his responsibility in it, and how his mother's mental illness affected him. It is very open but I had some trouble connecting with Frankel. I did not dislike him but I felt some distance between me the reader and Frankel is the writer. But it was still an interesting read and if you like family memoirs then you should give this one a look. I give this book a Three out of Five stars.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The first third of this book is really gripping, with amazing stories of the author's grandparents, who survived the Holocaust. You could not make this stuff up. It is a wonderful, well-written, tale of survival and resilience. I did not enjoy the rest of the book as much. Though I understood the theme of family dysfunction stemming from (possibly) epigenetic trauma, it felt like the author was overthinking aloud: tossing in a lot of psychological terms that ultimately didn't really go anywhere. The first third of this book is really gripping, with amazing stories of the author's grandparents, who survived the Holocaust. You could not make this stuff up. It is a wonderful, well-written, tale of survival and resilience. I did not enjoy the rest of the book as much. Though I understood the theme of family dysfunction stemming from (possibly) epigenetic trauma, it felt like the author was overthinking aloud: tossing in a lot of psychological terms that ultimately didn't really go anywhere. And I couldn't help rolling my eyes a bit at all the name-dropping and casual references to spectacular vacations. The author led a very privileged life, despite the family history. Even the grandfather who survived the Holocaust routinely handed him and his mother wads of cash. That's just not a typical childhood, by any stretch. None of which is to say that the author's personal issues weren't real. Of course it's hard to find out your dad isn't your biological father, and that your mother has been lying to you for your entire life. I just came away with the feeling that after all that self-examination (and frankly, quite a bit of feeling sorry for himself) the author still didn't get the big picture. And I couldn't help wondering if he might have more in common with his narcissistic biological father than he realized.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laura Hoffman Brauman

    Frankel looks at the Holocaust experiences of his maternal grandparents - both were in camps during WWII and much of their immediate family was killed, and how that experience impacted the lives of their family through the following generations. I found the section about his grandparents' lives and his own experience dealing with his relationship with his mother really interesting. The pieces about his time as a speechwriter for Obama seemed somewhat out of place and detracted from the storyline Frankel looks at the Holocaust experiences of his maternal grandparents - both were in camps during WWII and much of their immediate family was killed, and how that experience impacted the lives of their family through the following generations. I found the section about his grandparents' lives and his own experience dealing with his relationship with his mother really interesting. The pieces about his time as a speechwriter for Obama seemed somewhat out of place and detracted from the storyline.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sull

    Terrific memoir of discovery and growing up!! Why is this kind of story so compelling, the unravelling of long-buried family secrets so mesmerizing? It's been a long time since I read a book so quickly, literally unable to put it down for long. It starts like one of your usual tales of young Jewish grandparents surviving the horrors of the Holocaust to escape at last to safety in America after WWII. They land on their feet and start a family, and life is bright and full of promise. But trauma le Terrific memoir of discovery and growing up!! Why is this kind of story so compelling, the unravelling of long-buried family secrets so mesmerizing? It's been a long time since I read a book so quickly, literally unable to put it down for long. It starts like one of your usual tales of young Jewish grandparents surviving the horrors of the Holocaust to escape at last to safety in America after WWII. They land on their feet and start a family, and life is bright and full of promise. But trauma left behind interweaves a thin dark thread, hard to see or detect, especially as time passes. One of the second "American" generation born into brightness, Adam Frankel slowly becomes aware of puzzling inconsistencies, both in stories of the past and realities of the present. Slowly, with no real help from any other family members, he begins to excavate buried mysteries, one of which threatens to detonate his own sense of self. Coming to grips with the twisted roots of this and other secrets is a long process and requires all his emotional fortitude. Armed with help from psychological insights such as the Harvard ACEs Study (childhood toxic stressors) and other more personal bits of wisdom, he fights his way through the messy, disorienting battleground of his and his family's past, struggling all the while to retain his own dignity, compassion, equilibrium. The result is just fascinating.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Helen Ernst

    I usually do not write reviews, but this book was so moving that I will do my best to provide my thoughts on this read. I heard an interview with Adam Frankel about this book and I knew I wanted to read it. I am a child of a Holocaust survivor and found Adam’s personal and family story is told with such raw and human emotion. At times I wanted to hug him and tell him he would be OK. The story was so compelling, I was immediately drawn in and could not put the book down. The research he found reg I usually do not write reviews, but this book was so moving that I will do my best to provide my thoughts on this read. I heard an interview with Adam Frankel about this book and I knew I wanted to read it. I am a child of a Holocaust survivor and found Adam’s personal and family story is told with such raw and human emotion. At times I wanted to hug him and tell him he would be OK. The story was so compelling, I was immediately drawn in and could not put the book down. The research he found regarding families of holocaust survivors was affirming for me, as I saw some real likeness to my own family. I am always amazed at the resilience of people, the ability to endure unthinkable hardship and somehow survive. Unfortunately, this trauma does leave it’s mark as is shown in Frankel’s book. Giving people the space to be who they are and understanding when our parents fall short of what we expect of them create a space for grace for both the parent and child and I think Adam Frankel’s book shows this accurately.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mimi Pockross

    So this book just came on the market and was featured in the New York Times. I am the daughter of a mother whose parents perished in the Holocaust and I am always interested in new books about this subject. The book did not disappoint because it dealt with the struggle of his maternal grandparents who were extremely inventive in their survival techniques and their ultimate relocation in the U.S. From that beginning the author then weaves a mesmerizing tale of the aftermath of his grandparents' e So this book just came on the market and was featured in the New York Times. I am the daughter of a mother whose parents perished in the Holocaust and I am always interested in new books about this subject. The book did not disappoint because it dealt with the struggle of his maternal grandparents who were extremely inventive in their survival techniques and their ultimate relocation in the U.S. From that beginning the author then weaves a mesmerizing tale of the aftermath of his grandparents' emigration and the affect it had on his mother and on him. Frankel, a former speechwriter for Obama, tells his tale with honesty and with great feeling, an emotion that sometimes is often missing from Holocaust survivors and their children.

  12. 5 out of 5

    c2 cole

    I just saw that Inheritance (Dani Shapiro) was one of the finalists for this year's best books on Goodreads. I think this is a better book. Less repetition, lots of other interesting information included. This phenomenon of finding out your father isn't who you thought seems to be the latest trope in memoir, movies, novels, etc. I have to say I found one or two passages in this book emotionally helpful and the story nearly brought tears to my eyes more than once. I just saw that Inheritance (Dani Shapiro) was one of the finalists for this year's best books on Goodreads. I think this is a better book. Less repetition, lots of other interesting information included. This phenomenon of finding out your father isn't who you thought seems to be the latest trope in memoir, movies, novels, etc. I have to say I found one or two passages in this book emotionally helpful and the story nearly brought tears to my eyes more than once.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Kongsgaard

    A harrowing account of war and—mostly—what comes after. Of trauma, identity, mental illness, forgiveness. Very well-written and reflected, it's bound to move you deeply. A harrowing account of war and—mostly—what comes after. Of trauma, identity, mental illness, forgiveness. Very well-written and reflected, it's bound to move you deeply.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kerri

    This was an such an interesting read. Adam Frankel’s grandparents were Holocaust survivors and as he starts asking more questions and researching, he realizes that there are secrets they have kept and things they won’t talk about. This makes sense because I assume you’d have trust issues at the very least given the things survivors have went through. He talks about intergenerational trauma which is so interesting to think about. His mother has always had mental health issues and he wonders if it This was an such an interesting read. Adam Frankel’s grandparents were Holocaust survivors and as he starts asking more questions and researching, he realizes that there are secrets they have kept and things they won’t talk about. This makes sense because I assume you’d have trust issues at the very least given the things survivors have went through. He talks about intergenerational trauma which is so interesting to think about. His mother has always had mental health issues and he wonders if it is related to his grandparents traumas of surviving the Holocaust. He also learns through questioning in his adult life the things that don’t make sense that his mother had a secret of her own that would change their relationship. One overall theme of the book is family secrets which is fascinating to me just because I tend to believe the truth hurts less than finding out the truth later and realizing you were living a lie.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Payne

    Raw. Courageous. A few tears. Brave of him to write. Lots to listen and learn here.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Well, THAT was some book! Three different sections, each reflecting one subtitle to Adam Frankel's memoir, "The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing". Beginning as a book about his maternal grandparents' survival in the Holocaust and their move to the United States, Frankel writes about the "inheritance" he believes his mother, Ellen, received from her parents and the shocks that occurred in Ellen's life that continue to impact on Adam's life. The third subtitle, "Healing", refers Well, THAT was some book! Three different sections, each reflecting one subtitle to Adam Frankel's memoir, "The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing". Beginning as a book about his maternal grandparents' survival in the Holocaust and their move to the United States, Frankel writes about the "inheritance" he believes his mother, Ellen, received from her parents and the shocks that occurred in Ellen's life that continue to impact on Adam's life. The third subtitle, "Healing", refers to the healing many people in the Frankel/Perecman families have done in the last few years. Adam Frankel is a writer. That's one of the ways he makes a living; he was one of Barack Obama's speech writers during Obama's first term. But the book is not about politics. It's about Adam Frankel's basic sense of identity and feeling of familial belonging that Adam begins in WW2 Lithuania. The first section is about how his mother's family survived brutal murders and concentration camp stays. How his grandparents met in a DP camp, married, and moved to the United States, settling in New Haven, Connecticut. They raised a family of four, including Ellen, while "Zayde" worked as a master watch repairman. Now, all families have "secrets", and the Perecman family had more than its share. Every secret was precipitated by an event, and the cover-ups often make the act or event even worse. The middle section of Frankel's book is perhaps the most impactful because of the acts that Adam's mother, Ellen, did. Simply that, "did". Ellen Frankel had always been a free-spirit but as she grew up, she began to do unsettling things. It was a family secret, "we don't talk to outsiders about our problems", and her mental breakdowns worsened as she aged. Adam, because he mostly lived with his mother after her and his father's divorce, was the main recipient of her often crazy actions. He was very close to his father, Stephen Frankel and his family, and luckily was able to spend time with them as he grew up. They were the stabilizing factor in his life. The only part of the book I possibly differ with is that Adam ascribes his mother's mental difficulties to being the daughter of Holocaust survivors. There's been a lot written since Helen Epstein's 1979 memoir on the subject. I won't write any more about the contents except to say, the book is a roller-coaster ride. Is everybody okay after the last secret is told? I certainly hope so. Adam Frankel is such a good writer and he knows how to frame the events and the repercussions.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Adam P. Frankel planned to write a history of his mother’s family and their survival during and after the Holocaust. However, his interest expanded when he not only learned about the idea of inherited trauma, but the effect he feels that trauma has had on his own life. In his ambitious, but flawed, “The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing” (Harper), Frankel explores three generations of his family in order to understand his relationship to his mother. See the rest of my review at Adam P. Frankel planned to write a history of his mother’s family and their survival during and after the Holocaust. However, his interest expanded when he not only learned about the idea of inherited trauma, but the effect he feels that trauma has had on his own life. In his ambitious, but flawed, “The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing” (Harper), Frankel explores three generations of his family in order to understand his relationship to his mother. See the rest of my review at http://www.thereportergroup.org/Artic...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    Survivors For decades I have enjoyed reading personal memoirs and non-fiction narratives of self-identity. It’s a sad coincidence that I finished Adam Frankel’s THE SURVIVORS during the week that Elizabeth Wurzel died. Her first memoir PROZAC NATION: YOUNG AND DEPRESSED IN AMERICA brought popularity and attention to the literary form of therapeutic confessional. I always gain empathy and respect for people who can create beautiful prose about their complicated challenging lives. However, the impo Survivors For decades I have enjoyed reading personal memoirs and non-fiction narratives of self-identity. It’s a sad coincidence that I finished Adam Frankel’s THE SURVIVORS during the week that Elizabeth Wurzel died. Her first memoir PROZAC NATION: YOUNG AND DEPRESSED IN AMERICA brought popularity and attention to the literary form of therapeutic confessional. I always gain empathy and respect for people who can create beautiful prose about their complicated challenging lives. However, the important lessons are shared and can help each of us be more accepting. Frankel’s autobiographical exploration into his personal and biological inheritance is a tale of revelation and curses. His discoveries of parental secrets and Holocaust survivals and tragedies are a lot to overcome. Yet, he takes his reading audience with him into a deep reflection of his identify and the inherited traits and fortunes that he possesses. His impressive talent for clearly expressing his emotions, his puzzlement and adoration for grandparents makes any reader realize that we each have some fortune and some hurdles in our lives. We are born into a world of which we have limited control and must find available choices. Often choosing the truth comes with unbearable pain. His navigation and assistance from professionals helps him to find acceptance and understanding of his legacy. I highly recommend this book to all with open minds. It may be compared to Dani Shapiro’s INHERITANCE, however I felt much more sympathy for Frankel and sincerely wanted him to get beyond his suffering and to enjoy his fortunate position of family and career. He most certainly has a profound understanding of how events can impact people and subsequent generations. His telling is a beautiful way to better comprehend the damage that many individuals experience and to find the truth that even a privileged life is seldom easy.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Esme

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Maybe it is because I come from a family with multiple adoptees (and another who has given up a child for adoption) in it that I can’t quite fully grasp the wrenching emotions of people discovering later in life that their biological roots aren’t what they thought they were. Also, my mother’s family tree is so cloaked in mystery, premature deaths, and dysfunction, that she’s just thrown up her hands and conceded that while they have their suspicions on paternity, they’ll never know the truth bec Maybe it is because I come from a family with multiple adoptees (and another who has given up a child for adoption) in it that I can’t quite fully grasp the wrenching emotions of people discovering later in life that their biological roots aren’t what they thought they were. Also, my mother’s family tree is so cloaked in mystery, premature deaths, and dysfunction, that she’s just thrown up her hands and conceded that while they have their suspicions on paternity, they’ll never know the truth because everyone involved was dead before she was eighteen. I suppose I inherited her mentality. We belong to the people who were present in our lives growing up and to the place and time where we were raised. This is the second memoir I’ve read with this theme. The first was Dani Shapiro’s “Inheritance.” I thought as I began to read this book, that it sounded like it should have been an episode on her podcast “Family Secrets,” turns out it was, I just hadn’t listened to it yet. Both Dani and Adam have similar difficult mothers and learn the men they believed were their fathers weren’t. I had to wonder since both authors are of Jewish heritage, is that why biology means more to them, as it is tangled with echoes of the Holocaust and genocide? I found at a certain point I knew where the story was headed. Obviously since he’d written the book, the truth had been exposed, so quit the naval gazing and tell us what happened already. So the book turned out to be three narratives. The grandparents’ stories of living during the Holocaust, (the most compelling part, I thought), Adam’s story of being a speechwriter for Obama, and the story of finding out he was the product of an affair, the resulting anger at his mother, and his realization of the extent of her mental illness, his disclosure of the truth to family, and his family’s utter lack of surprise and continued love, pride, and acceptance of him.

  20. 5 out of 5

    G.S.

    This is a hard book to write a review of. It's kind of like the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead: when it's good, it's very, very good, and when it's bad, it's horrid. I couldn't stop reading the entire first part about Frankel's grandparents' experiences as European Jews during World War II, the one as a concentration camp survivor, and the other as a partisan fighter. The story of Frankel's mother's mental illness and how that affected his own life is also This is a hard book to write a review of. It's kind of like the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead: when it's good, it's very, very good, and when it's bad, it's horrid. I couldn't stop reading the entire first part about Frankel's grandparents' experiences as European Jews during World War II, the one as a concentration camp survivor, and the other as a partisan fighter. The story of Frankel's mother's mental illness and how that affected his own life is also interesting--almost like eavesdropping on his own private ruminations. Frankel's attempts to tie his mother's and his own traumas back to the Holocaust are much less convincing, even occasionally far-fetched. I almost put the book away and asked for an Audible credit at some points. Not that I don't believe in the Holocaust--quite the opposite. But people can be or become mentally ill (and because of that, inadvertently inflict harm on their offspring) for such a variety of reasons, or for no reason at all, that reaching back one extra generation to blame the Holocaust for it all seemed a bit disingenuous, and actually harmful to the tragedy of his own story. I wish this had been written as two entirely separate books, and without the tedious explanations and justifications. Both of those books would have been great.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Myron Rosmarin

    I’m about mid-way through this book now but couldn’t wait to write the review. This book hits very close to home for me. It could easily be the story of my family and indeed me too. Mr. Frankel tells this story beautifully which is probably very hard to do given the subject matter. If you, your family or someone you know is the offspring of a holocaust survivor, I highly recommend reading this. This is an important book. EDIT: ok so now I’ve finished the book. Wow. The second half of the book is I’m about mid-way through this book now but couldn’t wait to write the review. This book hits very close to home for me. It could easily be the story of my family and indeed me too. Mr. Frankel tells this story beautifully which is probably very hard to do given the subject matter. If you, your family or someone you know is the offspring of a holocaust survivor, I highly recommend reading this. This is an important book. EDIT: ok so now I’ve finished the book. Wow. The second half of the book is very different than the first. But the thread between the two is an important one. The first half sets the context for mental illness and behaviors that will play an important role in the second half. The ending of this book is the payoff. It helps explain what the author’s primary message is. If I had any complaints or negative judgements about this book it was this: this is a very very personal book dealing with some very very personal intra-family issues. The way that dirty laundry is aired so publicly made me squirm a little on behalf of the various family members. I think I would have preferred it if their identities were anonymized but that was probably a non-starter due to the nature of the story. Other than that, one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Trudy Stachowiak

    I unintentionally started reading The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing by Adam P. Frankel at the same time I was reading The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. I really did not know much about The Survivors other than what I read on the book cover, and was surprise when I learned that much of the book dealt with trauma and its affects it can have across generations. The Survivors is Adam's story of growing up with grandparents who were surviv I unintentionally started reading The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing by Adam P. Frankel at the same time I was reading The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. I really did not know much about The Survivors other than what I read on the book cover, and was surprise when I learned that much of the book dealt with trauma and its affects it can have across generations. The Survivors is Adam's story of growing up with grandparents who were survivors of the Holocaust and whether their suffering may have been a been a catalyst that influenced his mother's mental health. As Adam tries to learn more about his family dynamics, he uncovers a secret his mother had been hiding for all of his life. Adam uses this new found information to better understand who he is and to come to terms with his families past. I enjoyed this book and it went well with The Body Keeps the Score in better understanding how trauma changes us even when we don't realize we are experiencing trauma. There were parts of the book, such as when he talks about being a speech writer for President Obama, that I didn't really think fit into the story but this is his story to tell and as I said - I enjoyed it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

    This is an extraordinary book -- honest and wrenching. A first hand account of the effects of intergenerational trauma. It's a huge topic and Frankel's research is good; however, he can't quite pull it together. I am willing to believe that his own experience is in some ways the consequence of his family's extreme suffering, but this book doesn't convince me. The section about the Holocaust is powerfully told: we really feel the individuality of the victims within the massive event that they wer This is an extraordinary book -- honest and wrenching. A first hand account of the effects of intergenerational trauma. It's a huge topic and Frankel's research is good; however, he can't quite pull it together. I am willing to believe that his own experience is in some ways the consequence of his family's extreme suffering, but this book doesn't convince me. The section about the Holocaust is powerfully told: we really feel the individuality of the victims within the massive event that they were part of. The parts about Frankel's own upbringing are interesting and often moving, but I just don't feel the moral or psychological equivalency between the two states. Perhaps if there had been more detail about the generation in between, the connection would have been more defined. I also think that the book would have been better had Frankel had a few more years to develop some emotional distance from the event: as it is his voice often comes across as harsh and judgemental towards his immediate family. I appreciated the Obama cameo, even though it was not the main focus of the text.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    A very satisfying story of identity. As the author seeks to understand lies told to him about his father he weaves together a story of history, science, psychology and personal suffering and redemption. Adam Frankel provides a riveting and tragic account of his maternal family's suffering during the Holocaust, and their eventual settling in New Haven CT. In an effort to understand his mother's decision to deceive him about the identity of his father, Frankel examines the nature of trauma and the A very satisfying story of identity. As the author seeks to understand lies told to him about his father he weaves together a story of history, science, psychology and personal suffering and redemption. Adam Frankel provides a riveting and tragic account of his maternal family's suffering during the Holocaust, and their eventual settling in New Haven CT. In an effort to understand his mother's decision to deceive him about the identity of his father, Frankel examines the nature of trauma and the transmission of trauma from one generation to the next. Frankel is as good describing the science of epigenetics as he is searching for the history of his grandparents, and both history and science play an important role in the unraveling and eventual knitting together his sense of self. This book is a beautifully told tale that is both personal and particular as it is a universal tale of how our origins and origin story shape identity.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christie Bane

    Other people liked this book more than I did. To be fair, it’s really a 3.5 star book because the writing is good, I just wasn’t that interested in the story. There were actually two stories — the story of the author’s grandparents, who were holocaust survivors, and the story of the author’s probably-mentally-ill mother, who deliberately conceived the author with a different man than the one she was married to, and then deceived the whole family about it for many years. The author’s premise was Other people liked this book more than I did. To be fair, it’s really a 3.5 star book because the writing is good, I just wasn’t that interested in the story. There were actually two stories — the story of the author’s grandparents, who were holocaust survivors, and the story of the author’s probably-mentally-ill mother, who deliberately conceived the author with a different man than the one she was married to, and then deceived the whole family about it for many years. The author’s premise was that children of holocaust survivors are prone to all types of troubles like the ones his mother her, but I think she was just a person who made some bad decisions, and we don’t need to blame them on the holocaust. Anyway, I thought the book was leading up to a secret directly related to the holocaust, and to find out the secret was only that.the man he thought was his father wasn’t was kind of a letdown for me.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Beth McCauslin

    I'm still not quite sure what I entirely think of this autobiography. It is not what I thought it would be. It was not about Holocaust survivors, nor was it about their children, it was about the author. It was his survival story of his childhood and young adulthood. I've heard many stories of how the Holocaust affected survivors and their children, but this was not what I was expecting. I was expecting more of a history. What I got, was a story about his life with his mother, and the meat of th I'm still not quite sure what I entirely think of this autobiography. It is not what I thought it would be. It was not about Holocaust survivors, nor was it about their children, it was about the author. It was his survival story of his childhood and young adulthood. I've heard many stories of how the Holocaust affected survivors and their children, but this was not what I was expecting. I was expecting more of a history. What I got, was a story about his life with his mother, and the meat of the story came during the final chapters of the book. And I've decided that the author, and his mother's story still isn't over, it is just beginning, and I for one, would like to know more about it's resolution.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Georgia Call

    The book is broken down into the 3 sections mentioned in the title. I found the history of his grandparents to be difficult to read, as with most Holocaust history. He taught me about things I hadn’t known, or shed more light on the brutality.... is that even possible at this point? He speaks with raw honesty about his experiences with his mom, but I still felt more distance than I think the author intends. I felt like this was evidence the scars of emotional trauma. I found this book overall to The book is broken down into the 3 sections mentioned in the title. I found the history of his grandparents to be difficult to read, as with most Holocaust history. He taught me about things I hadn’t known, or shed more light on the brutality.... is that even possible at this point? He speaks with raw honesty about his experiences with his mom, but I still felt more distance than I think the author intends. I felt like this was evidence the scars of emotional trauma. I found this book overall to be a interesting look into family history into the trauma of war, inheritance, and healing

  28. 5 out of 5

    Summer Wright

    A remarkable, impactful story. If you're looking for a detailed memoir of folks who survived the Holocaust, this isn't it. The first half are the memoirs of the author's grandparents, the second half are the memoirs of the author. It's a book about generational trauma, and I didn't expect to be thinking about my parents, their trauma, and the impact over the course of generations. I loved the wide-sweeping perspective and the love you can feel of the author for his family. Such a good book. I ha A remarkable, impactful story. If you're looking for a detailed memoir of folks who survived the Holocaust, this isn't it. The first half are the memoirs of the author's grandparents, the second half are the memoirs of the author. It's a book about generational trauma, and I didn't expect to be thinking about my parents, their trauma, and the impact over the course of generations. I loved the wide-sweeping perspective and the love you can feel of the author for his family. Such a good book. I hated setting it down at night knowing I wouldn't get to finish it until work the next day. Plus there were bonus President Obama feels. Highly recommended.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gloria

    While I found this to be a solid read, The Survivors had at least three different story strands that were loosely bound together. I looked forward mostly to the strand which dealt with intergenerational trauma and I found that to be the least developed part of the book. The author loosely connects his mother's struggles with mental illness to his grandparents as holocaust survivors. While the connection likely exists, it wasn't convincing that these two things--were connected. Another central st While I found this to be a solid read, The Survivors had at least three different story strands that were loosely bound together. I looked forward mostly to the strand which dealt with intergenerational trauma and I found that to be the least developed part of the book. The author loosely connects his mother's struggles with mental illness to his grandparents as holocaust survivors. While the connection likely exists, it wasn't convincing that these two things--were connected. Another central strand in this book was the notion of identity and I thought this could have been developed more too. A good read for sure, I wish the storylines were more tightly connected.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Marieta Grissom

    Frankel has essentially written a trilogy covering the Holocaust through to the #MeToo movement... a story of his grandfather in World War II, his mother's mental state, and his own search for identity. Frankel's own story caught me off guard with its genealogy twist. All three parts are emotional and it is easy to understand his struggle to understand his mother, then himself as he works his way through it all. By the end readers feel healing is possible. Well written! Frankel has essentially written a trilogy covering the Holocaust through to the #MeToo movement... a story of his grandfather in World War II, his mother's mental state, and his own search for identity. Frankel's own story caught me off guard with its genealogy twist. All three parts are emotional and it is easy to understand his struggle to understand his mother, then himself as he works his way through it all. By the end readers feel healing is possible. Well written!

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