cover image THE OASIS: A Memoir of Love and Survival in a Concentration Camp

THE OASIS: A Memoir of Love and Survival in a Concentration Camp

Petru Popescu, . . St. Martin's, $24.95 (355pp) ISBN 978-0-312-27869-4

With historical sweep and accuracy, and a happy ending, this unique Holocaust memoir simultaneously elicits thrills and disquietude. Novelist and memoirist Popescu (Amazon Beaming) has rewritten the memoirs of his parents-in-law, Mirek Friedman and Blanka Davidovich, and fashioned their story of falling in love during and marrying after WWII into a cohesive narrative of interspersed first-person chapters. Their individual stories are unique and riveting: Blanka moved through various camps and job assignments, witnessing horror, enduring separation from her family and finding safety in carefully and continually breaking rules and asserting herself. Mirek, a political prisoner and an able technician who managed to keep his real Jewish identity hidden, survived the camps by doing maintenance work and defusing bombs for the SS. Their descriptions of their affair, conducted under excruciating circumstances, makes palpable their hope of surviving to make a future together. The drama unfurls intently and powerfully, filled with significant moments and insights—Blanka's remembrances and contemplation of shtetl life; Mirek's attempt to smuggle a radio into the camp that gets him interrogated. In an afterword, Popescu explains how he searched for a narrative voice that would encompass both of his subjects (as well as his other background research); yet because of his curious, rather novelistic construction, Blanka's and Mirek's voices seem disconcertingly uniform. But by the end, their valor and their enthralling, remarkable determination to shape their own fates supersedes any distracting stylistic flaws. (Sept.)