A story that draws the reader in with its poignant minimalism, Survival: A Story of Friendship by Alice Weil is a tapestry of two generations of a German Jewish family caught in the turbulent shadow of war. It starts with the return of the well-meaning Sigmund to Frankfurt fresh from his deployment as an officer in the Prussian Army to assume his role in the family business run by the astute Paul. With the onerous Treaty of Versailles setting the German economy on fire, Sigmund had to juggle, albeit with some success, his responsibilities as a businessman and father to the winsome Nellie. The first part of the book delves into the complicated relationships between Sigmund, his new wife, Helene, and Nellie.
The ugly shadows of post-World War I Germany rear their heads and we see Sigmund’s family scattered. Under threat of retaliation from a young member of the Nazi Party’s Storm Detachment who was obsessed with Nellie, Sigmund had to send his daughter off to Colombia under the care of the family of his best friend, Abraham. Sigmund’s son, Freddy, was also separated from his bosom friend Helmut after Sigmund, fearing the rise of Adolf Hitler, relocated his family to Paris. Freddy gained another friend, however, in Georges. When Sigmund later lost his fortune, Freddy and Helene were left to fend for themselves with the menacing German Army advancing.
The author, Weil, with her straightforward narrative, captures the essence of how hard it is to live in Hitler’s Germany especially for a person who was born a Jew. The uncertainties of the time may be glossed over by the character Sigmund and overshadowed by familial events but you can feel the growing tension with every turn of the page. This keeps the reader on edge until the very last. The plot’s transition from joy to sorrow and back was seamless.
It is the book’s timeless storyline of change and the friendships that transcend it that make Weil’s book a must-read. Spurred on by the author’s compelling narrative, it is truly a soothing balm for one’s soul.
– The Moving Words Review
Official entry: The Most Moving Book Award, Jan. 3, 2022
About the Author. Alice is half American and half German. She grew up in Colombia and attended the French and German school, being therefore fluent in four languages. She has three children and seven grandchildren. Having travelled all over the world. She immersed herself in the spiritual teachings of India and lives by these teachings. These have enabled her to serve others thus living her Dharma, or life purpose. Survival: A Story of Friendship is her first novel.