I printed off a copy of my manuscript and sent it to my mom. She has spent the better part of yesterday and today reading it, interrupting herself occasionally to call me with a question or email with a comment. A few minutes ago, this is what she sent:
You are able to put yourself in the shoes of the four Lichtensterns during the war and have their emotions and feelings and reactions come to life. You make us real people…. You put Opi’s reaction in context with his own personality and the same for Omi, Robbie and me. That is because you knew them…. You not only tell but actually walk in their shoes.
I am ecstatic that mom feels this way. Of course, it is because I knew all these people that I am able to make them come to life and write dialogue with their pet phrases and bring out their true personalities. This is a book about my family. It isn’t a story about “four Lichtensterns” as my mother says. It is a true story about what happened to Mom, Omi, Opi, and Uncle Robbie. This is the true story of how people that are dear to me survived the unthinkable. It is the story of where I came from, and because of that, it is the story of what has shaped me.
I may not have tons of experience writing books, but I have the knowledge of the individuals involved. Only someone who knew my grandfather well, understood that he could lose his temper and raise his voice and scare the hell out of you and also be the man who would tease and pretend to be be angry and smile and show his love with a twinkle in his eye. Only someone who knew my grandmother well understood the depth of love she had for her family. Her tears that flowed so easily when she said good-bye to us at the end of summer vacation seemed ridiculous to me as a child, and yet, make so much sense when I put it into context of the good-byes she had to say during the war.
My mother’s praise reminds me that this is a story that has to be told, and that I am one of the few people that can do it justice.