Net of Dreams: A Family's Search for a Rightful Place


Lilly Rapaport was a young woman in Czechoslovakia when she and her parents were taken away in cattle cars; her refusal to give in to despair sustained her through the loss of her parents and brother, privation in a work camp, and relocation to Prague, where she met her future husband, Sanyi Salamon, a doctor who had been sent to Dachau for treating an injured partisan. But The Net of Dreams is not a Holocaust story; rather, it is about how Julie's father and his extraordinary wife end up in the American ...
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The Net of Dreams: A Family's Search for a Rightful Place

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Lilly Rapaport was a young woman in Czechoslovakia when she and her parents were taken away in cattle cars; her refusal to give in to despair sustained her through the loss of her parents and brother, privation in a work camp, and relocation to Prague, where she met her future husband, Sanyi Salamon, a doctor who had been sent to Dachau for treating an injured partisan. But The Net of Dreams is not a Holocaust story; rather, it is about how Julie's father and his extraordinary wife end up in the American heartland - Seaman, Ohio, to be exact - and how that journey comes to define what we are as a country and who we are as a people. It's about growing up with a mother who has an undying faith that everything will turn out for the best but who keeps half-eaten sandwiches in her purse just in case. It's about adoring your father while wondering about the "other" family he never, ever talked about - his first wife and child, who were sent to a separate concentration camp and certain death. And it's about being a daughter of the only Jewish family in a town so remote that anti-Semitism isn't even an issue, enjoying close social ties while feeling conscious of one's differentness. And as Salamon raises her own children, she comes to understand what her parents felt - the love for one's children that is so great that one wants to protect them even from the past.

Salamon's last book, The Devil's Candy, was a wonderfully telling book about Hollywood. This, too, is a wonderfully telling book, but quite different. In 1993 Salamon interviewed Steven Spielberg on the set of Schindler's List in Poland. In tow was her mother Lilly, who survived Auschwitz. Lilly remembers little of the camp, though she recalls that Mengele was a handsome man. As Salamon writes, "dropped into madness, she adjusted to madness." In her life afterward, Lilly was indomitably optimistic. She and her husband-a survivor of Dachau-established their family in the Midwest. There they were a continent and a culture away from a past that nevertheless seeped into their relentlessly American present. Her parents' ultimate triumph is that they achieved ordinariness. Salamon movingly evokes their courage in this extraordinary memoir.

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Editorial Reviews

Jewish Book World
Memoir, by a child of Holocaust survivors, of Jewish efforts to rebuild their lives in post-Holocaust america. Although a work of non-fiction, Salomon writes with a novelist's flair for description of people, places, and events that surround the tragic family background that her parents experienced.
Jim Paul

In The Devil's Candy, Julie Salamon reported on the making of Brian DePalma's dead-in-the-water film version of Tom Wolfe's novel Bonfire of the Vanities. Here she gives us her own family's memoir, an altogether more personal report, but one which also begins in the film world. Invited to visit Steven Spielberg on the set of Schindler's List, Salamon asks her mother, Lily, to go along. Lily, herself a survivor of the concentration camps, "came through Auschwitz remarkably unscarred," writes Salamon. "Dropped into madness, she adjusted to madness." Once she saw Joseph Mengele, the infamous Nazi doctor, when he visited the camp. "He was good-looking," Lily tells her horrified daughter 50 years later, "though most men look very good in uniform."

Lily's normalcy is part pluck, part denial. Her Ohio-born daughter, by contrast, approaches this visit to the sites of the Holocaust with dread -- at her distance the evil of the Final Solution can only appear inhuman, monstrous, off-the-scale. The film set, with its artificiality in pursuit of real feeling, enhances the contrast. "The crematoria have been knocked down," Spielberg tells Salamon, "except for the one ABC built for ." On the set, the mother and daughter see a group of women, actresses in costume wearing frayed farm dresses and yellow Stars of David. Salamon is horrified to see these figures from the Holocaust come to life. Says her mother, "We never wore that kind of dress."

In the end, Lily forces herself to remember all the piercing details, the terrible betrayal of the war, and does so in order to help her daughter come to a just understanding of it. The two exchange their stories and their points of view. This moving, intimate and often funny memoir demonstrates how the stories we must make up to survive can bring us to the actual truth, after all. -- Salon

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The author's father, Alexander (Sanyi) Salamon, a Carpathian Czech doctor, was incarcerated in Dachau and survived, but he lost his first wife and their small daughter in the Holocaust. In 1946, Alexander married the author's mother, Lilly (Szimi), a Czech Jew who had survived Auschwitz, where both her parents perished. Julie Salamon (White Lies) begins this poignant family album with an account of the 1993 trip she made with her mother and stepfather to Poland, to the movie set where Steven Spielberg was filming Schindler's List. She interviews Spielberg, tours the concentration camps and tape-records her mother's memories of Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. The author's parents moved to New York in 1947, then in 1953 to an Appalachian Ohio village, where she was born and grew up. Her father died of cancer when she was 18. Beneath her girlhood's "Norman Rockwell trappings'' lay the tragic past her parents hid from her, a past she painstakingly reconstructs in this deeply affecting memoir. Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Salamon (The Devil's Candy: "The Bonfire of the Vanities" Goes to HollywoodWall Street JournalSchindler's List. When at Auschwitz, Salamon begins to tell the story of her parents' survival, tracing her family history from her parents' childhoods to their eventual arrival in the United States. Salamon offers an excellent account of seeing the Holocaust through her parents' experiences, perceptively illustrating how it affected her own life. The result is interesting and well written, but readers may miss the immediacy of works like Elie Wiesel's classic Night (1958), Ernest Michel's Promises To Keep (LJ 9/15/93), or Rena Kornreich Gelissen's Rena's Promise (LJ 9/15/95), which are written by the survivors themselves. Recommended for larger libraries.-Mary Salony, West Virginia Northern Community Coll., Wheeling
Kirkus Reviews
Bonfire of the Vanities film chronicler Salamon (The Devil's Candy, 1991) leaves Hollywood for sadder and more personal venues as she searches, none too successfully, to understand her family's history.

Actually, Hollywood does put in a brief, distracting appearance in the person of Salamon's pal Steven Spielberg, whose filming of Schindler's List neatly coincides with Salamon's own excavation of her parents' Holocaust experiences on a trip to Eastern Europe. Her quest seems to be threefold: to understand her mother, Szimi, an optimistic, happy-go-lucky soul; her father, Sanyi, the ideal physician and "saint" of Adams County, Ohio; and the reason why these two Czech Jews, survivors of Auschwitz and Dachau, would settle in such a poor, remote town at the foot of the Appalachians. But while Salamon (formerly of the Wall Street Journal) can gather all the information, her unusual parents elude her powers of penetration; each is reduced to a single, most salient quality. Szimi's breezy detachment may have helped her survive the wartime trauma of deportation, deprivation, and resettlement, first in Prague, where she met Sanyi, and then in America. But at its extreme, when she revisits Auschwitz, this every-cloud-has-a-silver-lining attitude is downright bizarre ("You know, if I hadn't gone through this place I probably wouldn't have led such an interesting life"). Sanyi (who died of cancer when Salamon was 18) remains a remote figure; admitting herself that she barely knew her father, she paints Sanyi primarily as a dedicated doctor whose long silences and deep rages were due to the loss of his first wife and daughter at the hand of the Nazis.

In the end, this narrative is at once too private and too impersonal—the reader floats on the surface of events and characters, unable to to enter into the Salamons' search for a safe place to raise their family.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780736635417
  • Publisher: Books on Tape, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/28/1996
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 8 Cassettes

Meet the Author

Julie Salamon
Julie Salamon

Julie Salamon is the author of six books, including The Devil's Candy, considered a Hollywood classic about filmmaking gone awry, and The Christmas Tree, a New York Times bestseller. Her other books are the nonfiction, true crime book Facing the Wind, the novel White Lies, a family memoir, The Net of Dreams, and Rambam's Ladder for which she won the 2005 Ohioana book award. Salamon was a culture writer for The New York Times and a critic and reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: "Sputnik" 3
1. Nine Lives 11
2. Good Color 29
3. Fievel's Grandson 41
4. The Lucky One 55
5. The Genius 75
6. Passover 89
7. The Gypsy Woman 111
8. Heaven on Earth 127
9. Daddy 149
10. Set for Life 157
11. The Accounting 177
12. Born Again 193
13. America 211
14. The False Spring 227
15. The Sign 243
16. This Is the Place 259
17. The Conspiracy of Happiness 281
18. A Very Good Life 291
19. Nem Tudom 305
20. Absence 321
Epilogue: "Is It So, Suzy?" 331
Acknowledgments 337
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