Friday, January 20, 2012
An Exclusive Love: A Memoir by Johanna Adorjan
An Exclusive Love is at once a brilliantly constructed memoir and a gorgeous romance. As the author writes, "This book tells the story of Vera and Istvan, Hungarian Jews who survived the Holocaust, fled during the 1956 uprising in Budapest to Denmark, and in 1991 in Copenhagen took their own lives. They were found in their bed, hand in hand. It is the story of an unusual love. The story of my grandparents."
I just finished reading this one last night and all I can say is, "Wow." This book fascinated me from the beginning and left me crying at the end. Its a book about searching for answers and self-reflection. Its a book that will definitely leave you thinking about life, death and the choices we make.
On October 13, 1991, Vera and Pista committed suicide. They were found lying side by side in bed holding hands. Pista had been ill and was not going to live much longer, but his wife, Vera, was healthy and had many more years left to live. So, why did they choose to end their lives together before their time had truly come? That is what Johanna, their granddaughter, is seeking the answer to, along with a host of other questions that she hopes will help her understand her grandparents better.
Written as a memoir, this book is a combination of imagined history and a series of interviews with old friends and family members who have known her grandparents for ages. The imagined part is due to Johanna recounting the day her grandparents committed suicide - their last day events so to speak. From waking up and getting out of bed to the toast they eat, every detail is recalled with clarity, as if Johanna were there watching her grandparents go about living out their last day alive. It all makes for quite an emotional read, because you can't help but get involved in this story of unanswered questions. You can't help but hope Johanna finds the answers she is searching for and you can't help but cry at the tragic realization that Vera and Pista really did commit suicide.
I can only imagine how difficult it must have been at times for Johanna to have written this book about her grandparents and their past and their death. From the discoveries she made along the way to the understanding that this suicide was a plan in the making for quite some time, Johanna learns quite a bit about her family and herself. This is a well written story about real people and the choices they have made during their lifetime. These people are flawed, unhappy and survivors of a genocide that left them emotionally scarred for life. Yet, they are also happy, successful and completely in love with one another. This is a book that will leave you in a rather emotional state when you are done reading, which I think speaks volumes about the level of storytelling - it is riveting and quite beautiful the way Johanna has chosen to explore her grandparents' past and share their story with us. You will not be disappointed!
I would definitely recommend this book to everyone interested in the memoir genre or anyone who enjoys a well written and solid read. This is a book that will stay with you for quite some time afterward - or at least I know it will stay with me for quite some time. And just so you know, An Exclusive Love: A Memoir will be released in paperback on January 30, 2012. So, go out and get yourself a copy of this must read!
By the way, thank you to Allie Bodack from W. W. Norton & Company for providing me with a copy of the book.