An Epiphany in Lilacs: In the Aftermath of the Camps
by Iris Dorbian
GENRE: Historical YA
An Epiphany In Lilacs is a young adult novel set in a DP camp outside Hamburg, Germany following the end of World War II. The author, Iris Dorbian, captures in this story a unique glimpse into the period after the Holocaust when survivors had to deal with their new realities for living, based on her father’s personal experience.
After liberation in May 1945, Daniel, a 14-year-old Latvian Jew, is treated in a field hospital in the British zone of partitioned Germany. A survivor of various concentration camps, Daniel fights to recover from starvation and disease. Racked by nightmares, a nearly nightly occurrence, Daniel finds sleep almost impossible. Through his love of nature, and pre-war memories, Daniel struggles to find comfort. He forms an intriguing bond with an older German gentile, another survivor. Later on, as he joins a theater troupe, Daniel tries to move on with his life, yet still searching for the whereabouts of his mother and two sisters. Poised on the cusp of a new life, young Daniel makes his way to the country that will become his new home.
The July heat could sometimes get clammy and oppressive under the glare of the morning sun, but Daniel didn’t care about peripheral meteorological considerations. What he cared about as he traipsed and traversed the grounds, the meticulously mowed lawns, the proliferating lilacs always in bloom, was an sensation that rippled throughout his body, the entire network of valves and veins constituting his inner being, the framework of his soul and flesh, a feeling so powerful and ineffable, it always bubbled up inside his head, manifesting in three simple words – “I am alive.”
Sometimes he would say these words aloud, sometimes within the earshot of other patients, some ambulatory, others not, yet all who heard would faintly acknowledge Daniel’s prosaic but freighted affirmation of being with their own gesture of recognition and affinity, be it an askew nod, a wry smile or a knowing wink.
Like other survivors, Daniel was plagued with guilt, confusion, disorientation and shock – the symptoms of post-traumatic stress that sometimes felt more terminal than transitory. But there was another emotion he shared with them, or rather a byproduct of an emotion, as he wasn’t ever sure he could qualify it as one, and that was gratitude. And it was this thankfulness, this visceral appreciation of just how lucky he was when far worthier beings like Tante Masha and Cousin David had not been, which instilled him with awe and wonder during his outdoor digressions. “I am alive.”
This was a tough one for me. The story was a nice story, following 14 year old Holocaust survivor Daniel as he tried to readjust to a world he no longer knew. I thought the information was well researched and the German language added in gave it a feel as if it could have been someone’s life. It held my interest the whole way through, so for that I give it three stars.
However, the very first scene bothered me. It didn’t seem to fit. As I read, I came to assume that it was a nightmare, but it was never overtly clear, and it continued to nag at me. I also had a hard time that the point of view switched so often. Most of the story was told following Daniel, but when new characters would come in, the author would switch and give some back story to their life. It got confusing sometimes, and I would have liked it a little more if it had just stayed on Daniel. Also there were odd jumps to the future even though the book was written as if it were happening right then. It felt odd to get this future knowledge that was never really expounded on. I think an epilogue at the end that wrapped up the characters’ lives later would have read better. But the main thing that bothered me was the flowering prosaic. The story mainly follows a 14 year old boy who never had an education past the third grade but the author would write such sentences as “…they scooted in harmony to that flickering neon facade that housed the temporary answer to their dreams; for Silka, it was the fulfillment of a promise he pledged to Daniel early in their nascent friendship in the hospital, and for Daniel it was a rejuvenating respite from the harsh uncertainty of post-liberation life.” I had to look up a lot of the words used throughout the book, which I don’t mind, but they didn’t feel like they belonged to the main character. This flowery writing would have fit with a scholar or a poet, but it created an odd juxtaposition with an uneducated teen who would often ask for the meaning of words. I think the book would have felt even more real if the language had been closer to a teen’s language.
So, overall good story, but some plot holes, head hopping of characters, and the flowery language keep my score at 3/5 stars.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Iris Dorbian is a business and arts journalist whose articles have appeared in a wide number of outlets that include the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Venture Capital Journal, Buyouts, Investopedia, DMNews, Jerusalem Report, the Forward, Playbill, Backstage, Theatermania, Live Design, Media Industry Newsletter and PR News. From 1999 to 2007, Iris was the editor-in-chief of Stage Directions. She is the author of “Great Producers: Visionaries of the American Theater,” which was published by Allworth Press in August 2008. Her personal essays have been published in Blue Lyra Review, B O D Y, Embodied Effigies, Jewish Literary Journal, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Adanna Literary Journal, ThisSpace.org, Skirt! and Gothesque Magazine. A New Jersey native, Iris has a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. You can friend her on Facebook at https: //www.facebook.com/irisdorbianauthor/.
Linkedin Site: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/iris-dorbian/1/759/358
Twitter site: https://twitter.com/IrisDorbian
Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/iris.dorbian
Personal Website: http://www.irisdorbian.com
Contact info: [email protected]
Buy Book Links
Camps/dp/1946124036/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1483379281&sr=8-1&keywords=Iris+Dorbian available in both paperback and kindle
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/an-epiphany-in-lilacs-iris-dorbian/1125407507?ean=9781946124036 available in paperback
Mazo Publishers: http://www.mazopublishers.com/dorbian-iris.html available in paperback; http://astore.amazon.com/kindlemazo-20/detail/B01MT4PAO4 available in kindle
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE
Iris will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
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Lorana Hoopes is a Christian author who focuses on the inspirational with a touch of romance.Her books are available at Amazon.