In May 1945, Pavel Mandl, a Polish Jew recently liberated from a concentration camp, finds himself among similarly displaced persons gathered in the Allied occupation zones of a defeated Germany. Possessing little besides a map, a few tins of food, and a talent for black-market trading, he must scrape together a new life in a chaotic community of refugees, civilians, and soldiers. With fellow refugees Fela, a young widow, and Chaim, a resourceful teenager with impressive smuggling skills, Pavel establishes a makeshift family, as together they face an uncertain future. Eventually the trio immigrates to the United States, where they grapple with past traumas that arise again in the everyday moments of lives no longer dominated by the need to endure, fight, hide, or escape.
Ghita Schwarz’s Displaced Persons is an astonishing novel of grief, anger, and survival that examines the landscape of liberation and reveals the interior despairs and joys of immigrants shaped by war and trauma.
I personally found this a difficult book to get through. The story at times repeats itself over and over and I found myself wondering if I was on the same page or was simply re-reading the passage over again. While the story content had me interested, it was simply the style of writing that did not appeal to me.
There is a situation where Pavel and Fischl, his traveling companion from the concentration camp come upon a home where a widow is staying. While sleeping, it's not clear at some point in the story that they are having a flash back or the story is just skipping by to their time in the camp. All of a sudden they simply wake up and Fischl leaves. Pavel heads out to a refugee camp where he meets a woman, Fela who herself is a young widow and a boy by the name of Chaim who is apparently taken for stealing.
Then next we read all three are headed back to the old widows home where he stayed previously and Chaim is with them. It doesn't state how he was released or how he managed to be traveling with them. Then they end up removing the old lady from her home, telling the local police that they own the home instead despite the kindness she showed him and Fischl earlier.
For me there is simply a huge disconnect in the telling of the story. My other readers however might find the story one they can work through, but for me it didn't work. I would rate this book a 1.5 out of 5 stars. I received this book compliments of TLC Book Tours for my honest review and would recommend readers who are interested to give it a try, they may just see something I didn't.
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