I am taking part in another fabulous virtual blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club. You just have to read an excerpt of Restitution by Janet Lee Berg.
By Janet Lee Berg
“Restitution” is the riveting, multigenerational story of Sylvie Rosenberg, a Holocaust survivor traumatized by the memory of her art dealer father forced to trade paintings with the Nazis in an attempt to save their large extended family. Sylvie’s adult life in 1970s New York is plagued by survivors’ guilt and bitterness. But when her self-destructive ways threaten to upend the life of her Vietnam-vet son, Sylvie finally needs to face her demons. She returns to Holland to confront her past and fight the Dutch judicial system for the return of the masterpieces, but the battle proves far more difficult than Sylvie imagined...
Weaving in tragic true events from her own family history, Berg offers a sensitive story of history, romance, and humor along with detail from the extensive research of Lynn H. Nicholas, the world’s leading expert on art pilfered during WWII. Over 80 years later, the real family still awaits justice and the return of artwork that continues to hang on museum walls, without noting their tragic history…
Michael blamed his mother for many things, including letting his father walk out on them. My father’s a stranger to me. I lost him the same day I lost my first tooth. Michael could still see his six-year old self in the mirror staring hard at the hole where the tooth had been, the toothbrush bristles against his sore gums. He remembered his tears running into his mouth, the salty taste mixed with blood. But he could hardly remember the back of his father’s head when he had slammed the front door and walked out without looking back. Maybe by the time a new tooth replaced the empty spot his father would be back. But he didn’t come back, not even long after Michael’s adult tooth emerged.
Mom forgot to put a quarter under my pillow that night. What did I know, a dumb little Jewish kid? I never enjoyed the splendor of the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus . . . no way was I ever going to believe in the tooth fairy. Or in my father. I kept that pain to myself. I guess we all collect our own little secrets.
Michael wasn’t just an only child. He was a lonely child. He didn’t have much of a family and he wondered why, trying to put the puzzle together: his famous grandfather, the world-renowned art dealer; his grandmother, the socialite who had the servants dress the four children in their best clothes. Michael envisioned them running through the three-story house in Holland all those years ago.
Michael heard a few obscure anecdotes about the once aristocratic family he’d never met; her siblings were still living in Europe. He could see the angst on his mother’s face as she told him, particularly when she mentioned Gretta’s name.
One thing his mother made perfectly clear was that people were not to be trusted, even family. “The ones you especially have to be leery about,” she had said, “are the ones that profess their love for you.”
He knew in the later years exactly who she was referring to. His mother wanted to be the only one in Michael’s life because she would never abandon him—not like his father had done. Never! And she had done everything in her power to keep her only Jewish son apart from that gentile girl named Angela.
After a night out drinking with the guys, Michael had become irrational. With a hangover, he had enlisted in the Army the next morning. He immediately knew he had made a grave mistake. Soon after, he and Angela separated. The girl was right all along—Michael wasn’t strong enough to stand up to his mother. Ironically, when Michael had lost his will to live, Sylvie reached out to his Christian girlfriend and told her where to find him. “Tell him the truth, Angela. Only you can. Tell him the secret his mother kept from him his entire life.”
Michael finally confronted her.
“How could you not tell me that I have a brother, Mom? You could have told me ten, fifteen years ago. He could have been part of our family after Dad walked out.”
“I’m sorry, Michael,” she had repeated over and over through the tears. “I know it was a terrible secret to keep from you. Believe me, I lived with the guilt.” She turned away. “I can’t talk about this right now. Please, don’t make me . . . I never could tell you because I wasn’t sure you’d forgive me. I wasn’t sure I had forgiven my own sin,” she whimpered.
“Stop! I don’t believe in sins. Being human means you’re allowed to make mistakes. And mistakes can be forgiven.”
Sylvie had covered her mouth in shame. “I was so young, Michael.”
“I would have understood,” he said.
Michael imagined his mother as a young girl who missed her father and who had only known about showy dresses and expensive jewelry back in her homeland. She had witnessed the suffering of others during the war and feared the same horror could befall her own family. Still, it was difficult for him to ignore her shallow lifestyle.
During college, Michael rebelled against Sylvie’s materialism. He practiced meditation, read Indian philosophy, and smoked a lot of weed. It wasn’t until the day he met Angela, when he shed his sandals on the beach and ran into the ocean waves to rescue the gentile girl, that he saved himself from going under.
I definitely what to read it after checking out that excerpt. If you are looking for that last minute xmas present for a family member or a friend that adores quality history fiction then this book might just be what you are looking for! Pick up your copy on Amazon UK • Amazon US • Barnes and Noble • Books-a-Million
Janet Lee Berg is a native New Yorker with a residence in Charleston, SC. She is also author of several other works of fiction and children’s books and has had her work featured in the local, regional, and national press. A journalist in the Hamptons, Janet Lee Berg has interviewed numerous celebrities and pursued an MFA in Creative Writing, under the direction of published professors including Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes.
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Thank you so much, Maddie, for hosting today's tour stop. We really appreciate it!ReplyDelete