A Hidden Life: A Memoir of August 1969 by Johanna Reiss and her previous books

by HRevvdon@evpl on Friday, May 29 2009, 9:04pm. Viewed 1,534 times.

I picked up A Hidden Life: A Memoir of August 1969 (2009) while looking in the "new" section of non-fiction.  It sounded interesting, but before I read it I thought I should read Johanna Reiss' two other books, The Upstairs Room (1972) and The Journey Home (1976); both are youth books.  EVPL does not have the jacket art for The Journey Home.

The Upstairs Room tells Annie's (Johanna) story as a Jewish child during World War II.  Annie and her family live in rural Holland.  Just before her mother dies, the family goes into hiding.  The father goes into hiding first, then Annie and one older sister go into hiding together, then the oldest sister goes into hiding when the mother dies - in separate hiding places.  Annie and her sister hide with a gentile farmer, his wife, and his mother for three years in a small upstairs room.  This book is a well written account of her experience, written so it is easily understood by a older child without being heavy handed.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.

The Journey Home continues Annie's story after Holland is liberated and she is reunited with the rest of her family.  They have survived the war, but have lost all other members of her family to the concentration camps.  She and her family have to move on.  Annie has to overcome her physical difficulties caused by her confinement, adjust to her sisters continuing their lives, and adjust to her father remarrying.  This book is not as good, it is a little more juvenile, but it is a stand alone story, independent of The Upstairs Room.

A Hidden Life is a memoir of one month in August of 1969.  A month that changed Johanna Reiss' life, and those of her children, forever.  Ann is a young wife and mother of two young daughters, she lives in New York City with her handsome husband.  Her husband is American, also Jewish, and comes from a broken family.  Raised by a emotionally unstable mother, he is a Ivy League educated man whose career has never gotten off the ground.  Ann goes to Holland on holiday to visit her family, the family that hid her, and to do research for the book that would become The Upstairs Room.  While Ann and the children are in Holland, her husband committs suicide, without leaving a note.  This book is her story of that fateful month and is a pouring out of her soul as she deals with it.  Both these people who have troubled pasts in which different horrors were inflicted on them, come together and make what on the surface seems to be a perfect marriage, only to have it torn apart.  Ann states that she was a "person-in-hiding" as a child; both Ann and her husband were persons-in-hiding for much of their lives.  This memoir is an incredible, sometimes difficult to read, pouring out of angst.  It is also a story of survival, as all three books are.



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