ALL BUT MY LIFE

Gerda Weissmann Klein

I did not know of this author or her experiences. This was another book sold at a library book sale, and it was worth reading. 

This author did not just recount her story of working and surviving enslavement under the Nazis; she has also written a memoir. It is a memoir as opposed to an autobiography. The text tells of significant relationships within and among family members, with contemporaries, with admirers and with lifelong friends.

Unlike many autobiographies, the memoir is honest; it rings true. Descriptions of places are detailed; nothing has been told in excess. The reader moves along, by interest and curiosity; it is not entertainment. The questions become what happens next to this human being and her friends? She is alert to invasions to her dignity and person – the shock of receiving physical punishment of a Nazi guard, or men who want to take advantage. The teenager/young woman makes countless adjustments to new settings, situations, persons and cruelty.

She supposes her friends make the same shifts, mentally, to work through physical hardships. Yet, near the end of the war – they know the end is close – the author loses two friends, and a third, days after liberation. All But is not a how-to survive book. All the young women had the same message drummed into them by each other: survive. All But does not attempt to explain what happened to the others. Instead it tells how this twenty-one year old survived, not a straight line, no logic, reason, but some luck, and loads of hard work. If she had a mission or goal to survive, the reader senses that vanished, except the author had an unending sense of herself.

For a memoir to communicate that fully is a remarkable achievement of a human being writing, looking at the soul of life and relaying it.

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WINTER’S BONE

This is an excellent movie.

Poor and female with younger siblings in Appalachia, this film show that life in spades. Jennifer Lawrence plays a 17 year old girl who assumes the responsibilities of her brother and sister and for the care of her family. They own the land and house where they live. However, the father isn’t around, and he has been arrested and is out on bail. He has secured his bail with the family land, which will be forfeited because the father will not make court appearances. 

Lawrence’s journey to bring her father to court takes her through the slime, grime and crime of that Appalachian community. There is no Christianity, or other modifying or mollifying religion or philosophy affecting survival.

The screenplay is excellent. There is not an adverb is sight, and few adjectives. It is the strength of the American language showing exactly what circumstances are. The only sense the movie does not convey is smell.