Overview

A miraculous lesson in courage and recovery, Bending Toward the Sun tells the story of a unique family bond forged in the wake of brutal terror. Weaving together the voices of three generations of women, Leslie Gilbert-Lurie and her mother, Rita Lurie, provide powerful—and inspiring—evidence of the resilience of the human spirit, relevant to every culture in every corner of the world. By turns unimaginably devastating and incredibly uplifting, this firsthand account of survival and psychological healing offers a ...

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Bending Toward the Sun

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Overview

A miraculous lesson in courage and recovery, Bending Toward the Sun tells the story of a unique family bond forged in the wake of brutal terror. Weaving together the voices of three generations of women, Leslie Gilbert-Lurie and her mother, Rita Lurie, provide powerful—and inspiring—evidence of the resilience of the human spirit, relevant to every culture in every corner of the world. By turns unimaginably devastating and incredibly uplifting, this firsthand account of survival and psychological healing offers a strong, poignant message of hope in our own uncertain times.

Rita Lurie was five years old when she was forced to flee her home in Poland to hide from the Nazis. From the summer of 1942 to mid-1944, she and fourteen members of her family shared a nearly silent existence in a cramped, dark attic, subsisting on scraps of raw food. Young Rita watched helplessly as first her younger brother then her mother died before her eyes. Motherless and stateless, Rita and her surviving family spent the next five years wandering throughout Europe, waiting for a country to accept them. The tragedy of the Holocaust was only the beginning of Rita's story.

Decades later, Rita, now a mother herself, is the matriarch of a close-knit family in California. Yet in addition to love, Rita unknowingly passes to her children feelings of fear, apprehension, and guilt. Her daughter Leslie, an accomplished lawyer, media executive, and philanthropist, began probing the traumatic events of her mother's childhood to discover how Rita's pain has affected not only Leslie's life and outlook but also her own daughter, Mikaela's.

A decade-long collaboration between mother and daughter, Bending Toward the Sun reveals how deeply the Holocaust remains in the hearts and minds of survivors, influencing even the lives of their descendants. It also sheds light on the generational reach of any trauma, beyond the initial victim. Drawing on interviews with the other survivors and with the Polish family who hid five-year-old Rita, this book brings together the stories of three generations of women—mother, daughter, and granddaughter—to understand the legacy that unites, inspires, and haunts them all.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The lasting impact of the Holocaust on a survivor and her daughter emerges in this joint account by Lurie-Gilbert and her mother. Lurie was five when a farmer agreed to hide her along with 14 Polish-Jewish relatives in his attic in exchange for jewelry and furs. While in hiding, Lurie witnessed the Nazis shoot a cousin and an uncle; her younger brother and mother died in the stifling, stinking hideout (years later her daughter, Gilbert-Lurie, wonders if the boy was smothered to quiet him and if her grandmother died of a broken heart). After the war, in an Italian DP camp, Lurie's father remarried to a stepmother Lurie resented; her father became increasingly depressed and remote when their fractured and traumatized family relocated to Chicago; and deep depressions haunted Lurie's own otherwise happy marriage. Gilbert-Lurie in turn recalls her mother's overprotectiveness, her career as a TV executive, a 1988 visit to her mother's childhood village and her own guilt, anxiety and sadness. Although the voices and experiences expressed are valuable, the writing is adequate at best, with none of the luminosity of Anne Frank, to whom Gilbert-Lurie compares her mother. Photos. (Sept. 1)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Los Angeles County Board of Education president Gilbert-Lurie teams with her mother in this occasionally unwieldy yet affecting memoir depicting how the deep psychological wounds from the Holocaust span three generations. The first and most vivid section is told in the voice of Rita Lurie, nee Ruchel Gamss, born in Urzejowice, Poland, to a family of Jews caught in the terrors of the Nazi invasion during World War II. By 1942 the Germans had occupied their remote town, and five-year-old Rita and her family were required to report to the train station for deportation. They split into groups to elude capture and persuaded a neighboring Polish farmer to harbor the group in their attic. Everyone believed the refuge was temporary, though they managed to hide out for two years-but not without casualties. Rita's toddler brother died, possibly from suffocation to keep him from crying, and Rita's mother died shortly thereafter. After liberation, they spent five years in displaced-persons camps, during which Rita's father remarried an Auschwitz survivor. The remaining Gamss family immigrated to America in 1949. Rita suffered from physical weakness and mental anguish for years, and her subsequent account records her painful attempts to come to terms with debilitating feelings of abandonment and anger at her controlling stepmother. In the second section of the book, her eldest daughter recalls growing up with her anxious mother and her own fears and the drive to succeed. Gilbert-Lurie's narrative is unavoidably less dramatic, except when she and her cousins returned to Poland in 1987 with a film crew to seek out the still-living Polish farmwife who hid the Jews. The third section, which introduces theauthor's daughter into the narrative, is more tedious, but the essential story remains riveting. A flawed memoir, but an amazing story of wartime survival. Agent: Larry Kirshbaum/LJK Literary Management
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061959196
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 575,267
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

A writer, lawyer, and former executive at NBC, Leslie Gilbert-Lurie is a member and former president of the Los Angeles County Board of Education and a teacher of Holocaust studies. A founding board member and past president of the nonprofit Alliance for Children's Rights, she has worked at a major Los Angeles law firm, served as a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals law clerk, and is a member of the board of directors for several nonprofit organizations, including the Los Angeles Music Center. Recently Leslie was appointed by the mayor of Los Angeles to a panel to devise a new cultural plan for the city. She is a recipient of the American Jewish Congress's Tzedek Award for Outstanding Commitment to Civil Rights, Civil Liberties, and Justice, and the Alliance for Children's Rights Child Advocate of the Year Award. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband, two children, and stepson.

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 9 of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2012

    New perspective

    Love that this bookexplains what can happen to families after the war. Strongly recommend this one!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 24, 2010

    Review of Bending Toward the Sun

    I received this book from FSB Media in exchange for my review.

    I normally try to steer clear of historical recounts, but when I read the summary for Bending Toward the Sun on the FSB Media website, it intrigued me. ?To actually read about what occurred to an actual survivor of a terrible historical event and how it affected her future generations was something I couldn't pass up ... and I'm glad I didn't.

    We've all heard of the story of Anne Frank when we were in school. While terrifying, her story has lost its affect on me. This book has restored my awe of the horrific events of the Holocaust. To live through a time where a leader as powerfully evil as Hitler is beyond my imagination. Although anything is possible and something like that COULD happen again ... it's hard to picture it actually taking place.

    Reading the accounts of three generations of women who are either directly or inadvertently affected by the Holocaust has been enlightening. Even though Leslie and her daughter, Mikaela, were not alive during the time of the Holocaust, they have been genetically disposed to the fear with which Rita now lives her life. I began to wonder ... "How many generations is it going to take until an offspring is born in their family without a fear of life?"

    Yes, bad things happen to good people. Yes, there are evil people who will use others' differences for their own personal selfish gain. While I understand the fear Rita has acquired concerning living, I don't understand how a person could let that fear control them every day. My not understanding undoubtedly lies in the fact that I've not lived through a horrific event parallel to the Holocaust. Or, in the fact that my immediate family has never lived through such an event.

    In essence, this book has opened my eyes and given me a deeper look into and a deeper understanding of the Holocaust victims. It has also reaffirmed my belief that we should never judge a person by how they look on the outside. We should treat EVERYONE, no matter the race, color or religion, with respect because we never know what they've been through or what they're currently going through.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2012

    Rebecca

    Sits on her pet polar bear's back. "I should come up witha name for you. How about Mark?" The polar bear nods and licks her face. She bends the saliva away and thinks about what to do next.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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