The Year of Goodbyes

The Year of Goodbyes

Imagine having a yearbook where your friends sign their names and leave you little messages and promises, only the year is 1938 and the Nazis are rising in power and your world is being encompassed by hatred and danger. This little book is a reflection of a poesiealbum that was owned by the author's mother. Eleven year old Jutta's friends and relatives wrote little wishes and messages to her in her album. The author has taken the writings and expanded them to tell the story of Jutta and her family, a Jewish family, during these increasingly difficult times. It begins with the message "will is power." Now what is will during these times? Will is courage and strength and even though you are seeing signs that you are unwelcome and hated, you will live your life well even while you are watching friends leave. Each message from a friend opens a window to steps and feelings along the way. They range from trust and honor to roaming near and far. Jutta's family makes the difficult decision to leave all of their worldly possessions and way of life and flee to America where they hope to be safe from the Nazi boots that are clicking and clicking up the stairs to take yet another family. Father negotiates to get the paperwork from the Germans. They wait. They watch. More families disappear. They buy tickets for an ocean liner but they cannot leave. The holdup is that the Americans have not issued visas to the family. How long will they wait? Too long? At the end of the book, there is a bit of information about the different friends and family members who contributed to the poesiealbum and where they ended up. Some made it to America and most died in concentration camps. It's gripping to read the glimpses of their souls in the album and then to imagine their journeys to their very difficult endings. Beautifully written in free verse with just enough information to take you into the family's world and connect you to their fears and bonds. 136 pages

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