Florence Grende’s memoir The Butcher’s Daughter is a family portrait drawn in lyrical style that examines the effects of war, and follows the narrator’s search for her parents survival story during WWII in Poland. The short narratives about growing up with parents who are World War II Holocaust survivors is by turns funny, sad, violent and revelatory. In Grende’s hands, this fraught subject is turned into an original, compelling work of art.
Faced with the unfathomable suffering of her survivor parents, she writes of the bits and pieces of rage, pain, endurance, bafflement, confusion, grief and the overriding human will to live. Here is a story of a woman trying to move forward in the new land of America but who has been raised with the shades of the European dead for company. The terse, poetic prose makes the reader feel what it was like to grow up and live with silences that truly were unspeakable.
In a clear voice that manages to be both haunted and compassionate, Grende reminds us that monster and victim can be one and the same. She tackles subjects as harsh as war and family dysfunction, always writing with an exquisite attention to sound and prose rhythms, reminding us, as all masterful writers do, that what you say matters because of how you say it. (via Goodreads)
I received an eARC of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.
The Butcher’s Daughter is a heartbreaking collection of short stories from author Florence Grende’s life. Stunningly written, sections of it read almost like poetry.
This book does need some trigger warnings, as one would expect from a World War II memoir – physical abuse, character death, rape to non-MC, suicidal ideation, antisemitism, starvation, and child abuse.
The author talks a lot about how her orthodox jewish upbringing challenged her and formed her into who she was, while she didn’t always believe in it. She struggled to reconcile the horrible acts that her family endured in escaping World War II, with the idea that God was with them at all times.
Young Florence wanted desperately to be like everyone else – to be able to have friends of any religion, to have parents who spoke unaccented English instead of the loud Yiddish. She also wishes to be like her parents, to feel like their history belongs to her, and not just them.
“I believe each of us is allotted a finite number of words per lifetime, these words housed in invisible satchels held deep within ourselves.”
Florence does an astonishing job of telling her parents’ and grandparents’ stories, as well as her own in this short collection. It had me in tears over and over, and it was so incredibly meaningful for me.
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