Maybe Esther: A Family Story by Katja PetrowskajaMaybe Esther: A Family Story by Katja Petrowskaja

Maybe Esther: A Family Story

byKatja Petrowskaja

Hardcover | January 30, 2018

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An inventive, unique, and extraordinarily moving literary debut that pieces together the fascinating story of one woman’s family across twentieth-century Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and Germany.

Katja Petrowskaja wanted to create a kind of family tree, charting relatives who had scattered across multiple countries and continents. Her idea blossomed into this striking and highly original work of narrative nonfiction, an account of her search for meaning within the stories of her ancestors.

In a series of short meditations, Petrowskaja delves into family legends, introducing a remarkable cast of characters: Judas Stern, her great-uncle, who shot a German diplomatic attaché in 1932 and was sentenced to death; her grandfather Semyon, who went underground with a new name during the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, forever splitting their branch of the family from the rest; her grandmother Rosa, who ran an orphanage in the Urals for deaf-mute Jewish children; her Ukrainian grandfather Vasily, who disappeared during World War II and reappeared without explanation forty-one years later—and settled back into the family as if he’d never been gone; and her great-grandmother, whose name may have been Esther, who alone remained in Kiev and was killed by the Nazis.

How do you talk about what you can’t know, how do you bring the past to life? To answer this complex question, Petrowskaja visits the scenes of these events, reflecting on a fragmented and traumatized century and bringing to light family figures who threaten to drift into obscurity. A true search for the past reminiscent of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated, Daniel Mendelsohn’s The Lost, and Michael Chabon’s Moonglow, Maybe Esther is a poignant, haunting investigation of the effects of history on one family.

She teaches German language & literature at Rutgers University.
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Title:Maybe Esther: A Family StoryFormat:HardcoverDimensions:272 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.93 inPublished:January 30, 2018Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0062337548

ISBN - 13:9780062337542

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Editorial Reviews

“The ultimate achievement of this remarkable book is to have forged a language out of muteness; a language quiet enough to describe the indescribable events of the last century with more beauty and curiosity than horror…At a time when the meaning of Europe has become a question, this is a book that suggests the answer lies in the intertwined histories of the rootless…Petrowskaya’s relatives, as described in this bestselling Sebaldian memoir, collectively conjure up the Russian revolution, the world wars and the Holocaust.”