Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Invisible Wall

5 out of 5

There are so many amazing aspects to The Invisible Wall, the first of three volumes of a memoir by Harry Bernstein, I am not sure where to start. I guess the most amazing fact I learned was that it is never too late to write your story. Mr. Bernstein started this first book at the age of 96. Almost unbelievable given the clarity of the story. His memory of the pain, poverty, and racism that prevailed in his early life is still as vivid in his writing as it must have been then.

He retells the story of his life as well as the lives of his families from his first memories of being brought up in a small mill town in England where the segregation is block by half block. Jews on one side of the street and Christians on the other side of the street. They seem to interact only on Friday evenings when the Christians will help them by coming into their homes to light their fires after sundown for the sabbath evening meal.

With the bleak weather, bleak living conditions, bleak education options for the Jewish children, this could easily be a very bleak story but it is in fact a story filled with love, a son's love for his mother, a daughter's love of her Christian neighbor, and a mother's love for her family that enables her to rise above huge obstacles, the largest being her alcoholic, abusive husband. The backdrop of all of these smaller stories is the story of England during World War I. The Great War seems to be a uniting factor in some ways for all the families of this small town but it is not enough to overcome many of the roadblocks between the different factions residing there.

I am ready to dive into the second volume of Mr. Bernstein's life as he immigrates to the United States and finds his way. Be uplifted and read this amazing story of life and how giving up was not in the vocabulary of the Bernstein family.

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