Letters from the Lost: A Memoir of Discovery, Helen Waldstein

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I haven’t yet finished this book but I am so enjoying its journey that I couldn’t wait to share it with you!

Letters from the Lost is a most beautiful memoir about the ties which bind people and how language can so clearly paint the picture of these bonds. The book is constructed around a series of letters that Waldstein discovers after her father has passed away. Through these fragments, Waldstein reconstructs the past which her parents so carefully kept from her, or rather, protected her from.

Waldstein’s father was fortunate to receive the last exit visa from a clerk at the time that Hitler invaded Prague in 1939. Waldstein took his wife and then young child, Helen, to Canada where they started a new life as farmers. In Canada, Helen’s parents did their best to ensure that she had the best that they could offer. At times this meant hiding the fact that they were Jewish.

Helen follows this trail of letters back to Europe where she is reunited with the house keeper whose scent she still remembers and where she is forced to come to terms with the enormous loss that plagued her family over the decades that passed since their escape from the destruction wrought by Hitler.

The story is told with such incredibly sensitivity and at times awe that it is marvellously readable and very emotive. I am drawing it out because I simply don’t want it to end… through the extracts from these letters I feel as though I have come to know all the aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins that Helen knows only as a distant echo of a memory. I, like Helen, am relearning the past and despite the underlying sorrow, it is a beautiful journey.

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