Jeff Ingber’s novel Béla’s Letters defies an easy definition. While it is obviously an autobiographical tale about his father, it is so much more. This semi-epistolary work contains letters and postcards written to Bela Ingber, yet, sadly, we never read his initial letters or the responses he frames to the notes he receives. What we do have, however, is his son’s loving reconstruction of his father’s words. Through Jeff Ingber, we hear Bela’s voice clearly. We are with him from his early years trying to understand his own father, Kalman’s, faith and world view in a time when Judaism and Czechoslovakia were facing events that would devastate both.
The personal perspective this novel speaks to us, bringing the horrors and lasting repercussions of war home in vivid clarity. This is the story of a man desperately trying to retain his humanity and sense of normalcy in very abnormal times. Bela Ingber must try to understand his father’s determination to carry on as if the German eradication of Jews is just something that will pass in time. He believes that it is his people’s lot to suffer for their religion. Each of Kalman’s grown children must choose a path for themselves, and those paths lead to both joy and unfathomable pain.
As we read the letters and postcards between Bela and family members, we can’t help but hold our breath hoping against the odds that these people will survive the war. As their stories unfold, we feel the anger and helplessness that Bela must have felt as the war occurred around him. We celebrate the moments of joy and we feel the despair of the moments of anguish.
There are many Holocaust novels of various genres. This novel, however, is like sitting at the kitchen table listening as your grandfather describes the events in a way that makes it completely and unforgettably personal. This is your family, their story is your story.
|Page Count||522 pages|
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|Category||Biographies & Memoirs|