Writing a book review every month was one of my 2021 New Year resolutions. And I had promised myself that my first blog post this year would be a book review. But that didn’t happen! My favourite genre is non-fiction, and travelogues are first among them, followed by memoirs.
Bill Gates’s blog, Gates Notes, is one of the few blogs I try to read regularly. He shares his reading list consistently on his blog. The Choice – Embrace the Possible, a memoir by Edith Eger, was on his 2020 summer reading list. I picked this book from the lot as it was the only one from a female author and also a memoir. I ordered the book on Amazon and got it on 27 January. Later I came to know that the International Holocaust Remembrance Day is also on 27 January! What a strange coincidence!
This book is about the author’s holocaust experience and how to live life after surviving trauma. The author details her life at the Auschwitz concentration camp. This is a very moving memoir. It has been divided into four sections: Prison, Escape, Freedom and Healing. The author’s detailing is such that the reader can visualize the nuances of each incident vividly. It was excruciating to read at times.
Edith Eger was just sixteen in 1944 when the Nazis came to her hometown in Hungary and took the Jewish family to an internment centre and then to Auschwitz. Her parents were then sent to the gas chamber. Later when the US military liberated the camp the 18-year-old Eger was left for dead among a number of dead bodies. A soldier is said to have rescued her after seeing her hand move.
During my school days, I had heard about the German concentration camps during World War 2. However only after reading the book did I come to realize that the magnitude of the happenings in the concentration camps was manyfold greater than what I had imagined. The Holocaust was the most traumatic experience to occur in the 20th century and some of the worst things that people could do to each other happened there.
To be honest, I had to skip many pages of the initial chapters as I realized that one needs to have a strong heart to read such books. The horrifying incidents like torture, trauma, stress, and shock experienced by the author and her sister, and other girls in their teens, are too much for me to contemplate. I started slipping into a depression-like state reading the scary incidents.
However, this book is not only about the dreadful things that Edith went through. This book is more than a Holocaust memoir. It also narrates how she slowly began to learn to live and enjoy life once again. Though the author suffered from war trauma and survivor guilt and had to undergo therapy, later she went back to school and got her Ph.D. at the age of 50! She is a clinical psychologist now. She comforts people and gives suggestions on how to handle difficult situations. Her life is incredibly inspiring.
I loved several quotes in this book and some of them are:
“I remind myself that each of us has an Adolf Hitler and a Corrie ten Boom within us. We have the capacity to hate and the capacity to love.”
“We don’t know where we’re going, we don’t know what’s going to happen, but no one can take away from you what you put in your own mind.”
A truly inspirational read! The author’s exceptional ability to forgive and make the choice to heal is a lesson to us all. We need to make the choice not only to forgive others but to forgive ourselves. After all, life is the sum of all our choices.
This book will undoubtedly remind you to be grateful for every second of every day that you get to spend with the people you love. I can assure you that this book will definitely change your perspective towards life in general and day-to-day incidents in particular.
It is a must-read if you are interested in inspirational stories of women who have risen from the ashes of traumatic experiences phoenix-like and come out on top to become successful role models. If you have read the book already, please write your comments about your reading experience.
Last but not the least, Edith Eger is very active on Instagram and does podcasts even at the age of 94. I follow her on Instagram.
Happy empty-nesting 🙂
Even in hell, hope can flower ~ Edith Eger
PS: The featured image in this post is the Auschwitz concentration camp gatehouse and the train track in operation in May–October 1944 that led directly to the gas chambers.