cover image Where She Came from: A Daughter's Search for Her Mother's History

Where She Came from: A Daughter's Search for Her Mother's History

Helen Epstein, Author Little Brown and Company $24.45 (352p) ISBN 978-0-316-24608-8

This eloquent memoir by freelance journalist Epstein (Children of the Holocaust) traces her mother's Czech-Jewish family back through three generations. The author's prodigious research, based on interviews and archival material housed in four countries, not only yields compelling portraits of Epstein's female ancestors but also presents a history from the 1800s to WWII of the area now known as the Czech Republic. Combining objective reporting with dramatic detail, Epstein recounts the ebb and flow of anti-Semitism that affected her family. After her depressed great-grandmother killed herself by jumping from a window, the author's orphaned grandmother learned to be self-supporting and became a renowned couturier in prewar Prague. Epstein's mother, Franci, took over the business and prospered until 1941, when Germany imposed martial law. Drawing on an unpublished memoir by Franci, the author describes how her mother survived the camps of Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. This rich personal story encompasses historical events and the varied lives of Eastern European women over the last century. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)