A BREAKING FACADE
The bulk of Holocaust literature available today seems to consist of memoirs, from survivors themselves or their children, and factual studies of the deportations and killings. The impact of the Holocaust on the psyches and lives of the children of survivors, (or 2Gs, as they are known), has been largely overlooked, particularly in fiction.
The debut novel ESCAPING THE WHALE, written by a 2G, Ruth Rotkowitz, fills this void. Having experienced and researched the effects of survivors’ Holocaust experiences on their offspring, the author has created a sympathetic protagonist who embodies many of the traits that torment children of survivors. This is a subject receiving newfound attention, as the current proliferation of organizations devoted to 2GS illustrates.
The novel follows a young Jewish woman, Marcia Gold, who seems to have everything – a good job and a handsome, successful boyfriend who wants to get married. However, her inner life is a seething cauldron of fears and delusions, which she attempts to conceal so as to appear “normal.” Her symptoms can be directly traced to her keen awareness of her family’s suffering. The Iranian hostage crisis, which dominates the news at the time (1980) exacerbates her terror.
As a guidance counselor at a large high school in Brooklyn, New York, Marcia specializes in dealing with the pregnant students, whose numbers are increasing. She advocates for them and assists them, despite the discomfort of the other guidance counselors, who are all male. This places her at the center of the modern world, tackling the issues facing teenagers, faculty, and women in the workplace. With one foot in the modern world and one in the Holocaust world of the past, she typifies the 2Gs today, who struggle to reconcile these two different realms.
Hiding her inner problems becomes increasingly difficult as a slew of crises erupt, at Marcia’s school and in the world. She cannot continue with her façade and reaches a breaking point, which veers toward a serious mental breakdown. Her desperate plan to escape everything by running off to Mexico in order to re-invent herself will tear at readers’ heartstrings. Readers of all backgrounds root for her as they follow her tortuous journey to the path she must eventually discover.
Visit www.RuthsWhale.com to download and read the first chapter now.