Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Club Pick: The Watchmaker's Daughter: A Memoir

The Watchmaker's Daughter
by Sonia Taitz
McWitty Press
2012
243 pages


Poignant and sweet, The Watchmaker's Daughter is a loving tribute from a daughter to her hard-working parents who lived through Hitler's death camps and Nazi Germany to immigrate to America and start a family and a small business. Theirs is the true American dream story. Poor immigrants who through hard work and determination escape poverty and attain home ownership and send their offspring to shining American institutions of higher education.

Gita, Sonia's mother, never questioned her lot in life. She worked alongside her husband in the shop for decades and raised two children on next to nothing. Gita put food on the table in the most frugal way. She didn't move to the suburbs and buy a mink coat like all the other ladies of her generation once they had a few dollars.

As a young girl, Sonia longs to move to a house with a yard. A house where she could have a dog. Her parents' friends all have fancy cars and large, impressive homes. Sonia is embarrassed by her parents who seem so old-fashioned and religious. Her father celebrates his Jewish religion and the high holy days. He goes to synagogue and reads the Torah. He eats a kosher diet. Gita belittles their Jewish friends who eat shrimp cocktail--that it's not kosher. Sonia just wants to fit in with the upwardly mobile middle class.

There is so much to love about this book. Sonia Taitz has captured 1960s New York and its Jewish community. Her father's watchmaker's shop comes to life. Her mother's love is apparent in every action. Even when her mother tears up the letters from Sonia's ex-flame Paul, hiding the fact that he is trying to stay in touch, Sonia knows her mother did it out of love for her. Sonia is able to forgive her mother and reconnect with Paul, finally marrying the love of her life.

Sonia has always thought of her father as old-fashioned and kind of uptight, but she sees his greatness one day when a stranger approaches them on the street. The stranger thanks Simon Taitz for saving his life. Simon tells Sonia that because the Nazis valued promptness, they valued his watchmaking skills. He had his own workshop in the camp and was able to save many men by teaching them his trade. One man--her own father--was a hero and saved many lives.

This is the story of one famly, but it will resonate with all families. This is a book of the human condition and survival.

Highly, highly recommended grade 9 and up andfor any history buff and anyone who likes to read memoirs from another time. Highly recommended for book clubs; this is one book that will get members talking. Some mature content.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

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