Ter Hart stuns readers with a haunting journey through family secrets in this striking debut. Part memoir and part historical fiction, ter Hart’s account offers an unforgettable mixture of anecdotes, personal memories, genealogy records, and preserved correspondence, all skillfully combined into a moving chronicle of her family’s experience of the Holocaust–a story that, she writes, “must continue to be told to all existing and future generations.” She recounts her parents’ upbringing in Holland during the second World War, as well as their later immigration to Canada, but her focus is on the Jewish family members who were lost–and those left behind.
This family tree can be challenging to track, but ter Hart’s conversational style incites readers in and transports them into the center of her family’s experiences. Her stories of “Tante Mina,” an aunt who survived multiple concentration camps after her husband turned her over to the Nazis, is spellbinding, as is the family secret that her grandfather, Giovanni Vittali, hid a fortune’s worth of valuables for Jewish friends and family through his construction company. Equally moving are ter Hart’s personal photographs, such as a reproduction of her grandmother’s star of David and a snapshot of seven-year-old Maurits, a relative who was killed at Sobibor. Throughout the account, ter Hart returns to the family’s tendency to have twins, the genealogical thread that spurred her interest in uncovering her family’s background.
While ter Hart never shies away from shocking details (at Auschwitz she notes the “still visible claw marks of human fingernails on the walls of the gas chambers”), she highlights the silver lining of stumbling across her family’s confidences–including finally being able to connect with a distant relative who survived. She leaves readers with the gut-wrenching insight “ow grievous that humans, generally, still seem unable to evolve beyond being the hunter, the hunted, or the watcher,” and anyone intrigued by family histories and uncompromising historical fiction will discover a narrative to remember.
Takeaway: An unforgettable odyssey of family, overflowing with devotion, grief, and resilience.
Great for fans of: Adiva Geffen’s Surviving the Forest, David Crow’s The Pale-Faced Lie.
Production grades Cover: A- Design and typography: A Illustrations: A Editing: A Marketing copy: B
Emotionally charged and beautifully written ... a page-turner.
After her mother's death, Stella begins to look into her family history, unaware of the tragic story she is about to unearth. She examines the matters of racism, hate and violence against humanity, cruelty, and questions of faith and identity with precision and skill. A riveting and often brutal tale of the horrors of the Holocaust with family and relationships at its core, this is a winner."
- THE PRAIRIES BOOK REVIEWS
An innocent comment about the tradition of twins in the family from her mother during her pregnancy leaves ter Hart wondering about her family's history. Deeply profound and achingly beautiful, the book aptly explores innate yearning for one's roots while delving into the horrors of war and genocide, familial bonds, love, loss, and grief.
This is a stunner.
- BOOKVIEW REVIEWS
Discovering Twins is a memoir, a biography and short, fictional stories all-in-one. It blurs the line between memory and imagination, and that's what sets it apart. With more than 20 short stories exploring different characters and their lives, Discovering Twins is a magnificent debut. It talks about the life of a Jewish family under an oppressive regime; it celebrates life and explores motherhood, childhood, and families in fascinating ways. Discovering Twins is a must-read for anyone looking to get an intriguing and insightful look into the life and struggles of Jews during times of war contrasted with the warm, happy, bright life of ter Hart's family.
- LITERARY TITAN