Don't Ask

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Pub Date 01 Apr 2022 | Archive Date 08 Jun 2022

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Posing the question: who packed the baggage we carry from birth?

Don’t Ask poses the question: who packed the suitcase we carry from birth? In this literary thriller, a woman agonizes over her mother’s suicide and is thrown into turmoil over her attraction to a German. Hannah Baran is 45, a successful Montreal real estate broker with a highly lucrative client who, like her parents, is a Holocaust survivor. Born in a German DP camp, she is the only child of Rokhl and the late Barak. One day, she arrives to take her mother to the doctor’s but Rokhl is gone, leaving behind a mystifying note that reads: I am not her. Throughout Hannah’s life, Rokhl’s notes have been all the guidance she received from a laconic, distant mother, a foil to Hannah’s voluble father who rescued Rokhl from Auschwitz. When Hannah announces that she must travel to Germany on business, Rokhl threatens that should Hannah ‘go to that land of murderers,’ it would be over her dead body. Three days later, Hannah locates her missing mother in the morgue. Secreted away in a confessional letter for Hannah to find one day is the story of Rokhl’s life filled with loss, betrayal, and guilt. It is woven into the intrigue of the plot about contested land and a love affair weighted down by the baggage of history.

Posing the question: who packed the baggage we carry from birth?

Don’t Ask poses the question: who packed the suitcase we carry from birth? In this literary thriller, a woman agonizes over her...

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ISBN 9781771837118
PRICE $21.95 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

Gina Roitman’s first novel is a joy and a conundrum. It’s an engaging, multi-layered story that is a love story, a family saga, a mystery and holocaust historical novel. What is different from most is that it takes on the emotions and anxieties often felt by second-generation survivors - people whose parents survived the holocaust although they themselves were often born in freedom and later lived in comfort, and yet still have inherited and lived trauma from their parents.

The story-telling is page-turning, and the flashbacks illuminating as they give substance and background to the the characters, and also provide context for those not as familiar with the horrors of the holocaust. Yet I felt some of the motivations are left out. We the reader must decide for ourselves why they happened. Especially concerning the mother. Maybe I didn’t believe she would act on what is essentially an idiom. What I do believe is that I would have needed a lot more therapy to get my life in order if I was her daughter. Also, a little thing - I think the title of the book is not engaging enough.

This is a good story. I am quoting someone here: “Good stories can be one of two things: they are either windows or mirrors.” If I tell you I married into holocaust survivor families, my husband was born in a DP camp in Germany, and my ex’s family name is one mentioned in the book, albeit spelled differently (and more) I don’t’ have to say which was mine for this book. I had to stop and over and over and remind myself this is a novel. Or is it?

Many thanks to Guernica Editions and NetGalley for the ARC of this enjoyable novel.

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