The family myth about the author’s grandfather was that he was lucky to have escaped persecution in Europe prior to World War II and that his flight to the United States was part and parcel of a fairly charmed life. Wildman’s discovery of a trove of records and letters in her grandparents’ home led the journalist to some unsettling facts about the actual difficulties her grandfather had experienced throughout the war years and thereafter. The most startling revelation: her grandfather had left behind a young woman, Valy, with whom he had an intense and long-term love affair. Wildman’s efforts to discover the truth about her grandfather’s life and any facts at all about what became of Valy form the backbone of this exemplar of investigative reporting.
VERDICT Wildman’s extensive investigation into her grandfather’s history is well documented and analyzed, but it is her determination to find out what happened to Valy, a woman at the periphery of the family circle, that distinguishes this family history. The author’s gradual realization that others cared about Valy’s fate, too, led her to a larger understanding of the unbearable circumstances and decisions faced by everyone involved, even those lucky enough to establish new lives elsewhere.