Author:  Pearl Goodman

Publisher: Bridgeross Communications

ISBN: 978-0-9878244-6-2

 
In Peril, Pearl Goodman combined her training and skills as an English teacher and then psychotherapist to analyse her own interesting and complex life in a memoir that will enlighten thoughtful readers about a variety of important themes.  The author juxtaposes her memories of childhood with the stories she heard about the experiences of her parents and grandparents in Germany during the holocaust to demonstrate how these traumatic experiences influenced  their parenting and her reactions to her own childhood experiences growing up in Toronto, Canada.

For instance when she meets another child, a neighbor, her own age who wants to be friends and they do have a good time playing until their search for common ground results in the discovery that Henry’s grandfather was a soldier fighting for the Germans and her grandmother was killed by German soldiers:

“I was far from mollified by Henry’s enthusiastic suggestion that his grandfather could lay claim to being my grandmother’s assailant. The longing for Henry and me to share something was eclipsed by a sneaking revulsion I couldn’t shake, but it never went past the pit of my stomach into my throat where words would come out.  I didn’t know where to begin anyway. When he was finished his face was a deep red, his breathing fast and he was smiling.  He had just had a ball, I thought to myself. It was fun to play; I conceded that much. Henry and I had been like two little fishes sharing a small fish bowl for the summer. When school started, we were released into the greater water, where we gravitated toward familiar species. The first definitive act of distance came in the form of being placed in different classes. Then that extended further as we found ourselves at different ends of the schoolyard at recess.” (p.9)

A less thoughtful child could easily have responded to Henry with anger and hatred but Pearl instead examined her own reactions to his revelation and this memoir is an example of a person who has carefully thought out the source and effects
of human emotions and in fact later pursued that kind of thoughtful examination academically and professionally.

Later in the book Pearl wishes to have an overnight with a friend from school and her mother is reluctant to let her go.  She understands why it is so hard for her mother to say good bye to her even for that one night. She relates this story:

“There was a time she had had complete faith that he words ‘I’ll see you later’ meant just that.  . . .

         The instructions for everyone to report to the train station spread rapidly.  There is nothing in the news that suggests they shouldn’t comply.  So they walk there together, leisurely, my mother, her father, and her brother.  At the station there are personnel organizing people this way and that.  It’s just a short train ride my grandfather and uncle take for processing. They’ll be back for supper.  My mother can go home. ‘We’ll see each other later’

         They all agree that they can project this plan with certainty.  That the world in which they live holds the promise that everything is just as it should be and as it seems.  No other possibility is even remotely within their imaginations to consider. Least of all, that this is the first leg of the trip to her father’s and brother’s deaths.” (p.75)

Peril (which, by the way, is pronounced phonetically just like the author’s first name with a Yiddish accent) is a powerfully moving book that deals with the lingering intergenerational effects of the horrific history of the holocaust. Not an easy read, but a very important one.

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