In The Pages In Between, Erin Einhorn has written a memoir about what she finds when she searches for the Polish family that sheltered her Jewish mother during World War II.
When she was growing up in Detroit, Einhorn didn’t know much about her mother’s past until she wrote a paper on the topic when she was in high school. Her mother, Irena, offered only the basics: Born in the early 1940s, Irena’s mother died during the war, while her father, Beresh, survived. Before he was taken away to a concentration camp, Beresh offered a local woman money and his home to live in if she would keep Irena safe. After the war, Beresh returns and makes his way with his daughter and new wife first to Sweden then to the U.S., where he made a new life.
When Erin, Irena’s daughter, became a journalist, her reporter’s mind refused to let go of her mother’s story, and she wanted to learn more. Taking a sabbatical from her job, she moved to Poland to see if she could find her mother’s rescuers. In the story of her quest, Einhorn mixes historical fact with current cultural observations with details of her journey to create a fascinating account that is very personal, yet universal in many ways as well.
The story will touch a chord with anyone who has ever wondered about the people who came before them: where did they live, what motivated them, how were their lives different from ours? There’s genealogical research and observations about Jews in Poland. Einhorn takes a look at historical attitudes of Poles to Jews and how lingering feelings of distrust resulting from the Holocaust continue to this day. But she also looks at how this generation of young Poles is different from the one that came before, and she candidly assesses the differences.
I think The Pages in Between is not just the story of one woman’s search for her mother’s history. It taps into the yearning that many of us feel about understanding our mothers and ourselves by looking at the events that helped shape us into who we are. I recommend it for mother-daughter book clubs with daughters in 10th grade and older.