Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Lost by Daniel Mendelsohn (Book Review)



Mendelsohn, Daniel. The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million. New York: HarperPerennial, 2007, c2006.

This is the story of Daniel Mendelsohn's search for his maternal grandfather's brother, Shmiel Jager. His grandfather had told him stories of the family, but he became interested in learning more. His search led him to many countries and to the ancestral hometown of Bolekhiv, Ukraine on numerous occasions. Gradually through bits and pieces from different individuals who knew Shmiel's family, he is able to piece together the story. I was somewhat disappointed in the story. It's more about the search than it is about the lives of those he was researching. As a genealogist, I would have preferred to read the account of his family as it had been synthesized and pieced together (with footnotes attributing each piece to the proper source and noting discrepancies and how they were resolved). This, however, was not the direction in which the author chose to go. I found that I was constantly trying to remember what he'd learned 100 or 200 pages back that had bearing on what he was learning from his current interviewee. I felt that the book was a lot longer than it needed to be, but much of this may have had to do with my perspective on how the book should have been written. There is a lot of information here, and while I am not as happy about how he chose to present it as some others are, I am happy that he did put his family's story in print. I enjoyed the pieces of commentary on Genesis which were often based on the Jewish commentary that Friedman wrote. (3 of 5 stars)

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