Book Review: "Paper Children" by Marcia Fine

Marcia Fine's evocative, devastating novel begins in Poland in 1929, with the life of a frivolous, politically unaware young woman named Paulina, whose parents want her to marry. She does, but her new husband spends most of his time seeking his fortune in New York City, to which he ultimately insists Paulina come. The marriage is not a happy one, and adapting to the "do it yourself" culture of America forces an unprepared Paulina to manage children and a household herself. Slowly, she and her husband become aware of the devastation of their Jewish family by the Nazis.

Paulina's daughter, Sarah, a photographer, is sent to document the displaced persons camps after the end of WWII. Her shock and horror lead her to disavow her faith. She has a daughter, Mimi, whom she brings up in a "live for the moment" lifestyle.

It is Mimi who demands answers to what happened to her family in Poland. Paulina eventually hands over postcards and letters that document her family gripped in the vortex that became the Holocaust.

The power of this book is in the ordinariness of its three heroines, and their different ways of handling the trauma their family endured. The shame of the survivors permeates the pages. Fine skillfully weaves the multigenerational story together, leaving the reader wondering why silence was the response to such horror, yet understanding that perhaps no other response was possible.

An excellent read.

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