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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Reflections and Review: "The Conversations We Never Had"

"The Conversations We Never Had" by Jeffrey H. Konis is an amazing book. I'm not quite sure what the genre actually is, since it combines biography, memoir and fiction.

Konis, like many of us is in a quandary. It's only when much too late he realized that he had missed a great opportunity to learn about his father's family, especially his father's biological parents. His grandparents weren't actually his grandparents. They were his father's aunt and uncle, because his grandparents had died during the Holocaust. After the war his grandmother's younger sister and her husband adopted his father, and the three started new lives together as a nuclear family in America.

I found "The Conversations We Never Had" and couldn't put it down. Prewar Europe really comes to life here. All of the characters are believable. I had to keep reminding myself that it is mostly, if not all, fiction.

It's a pleasant and easy read, very well written for the most part, and I love the fact that the book has large easy to read print. I caught a couple of mistakes a good editor should have fixed, but that's not the end of the world.

One should be corrected, because for anyone who knows the fact it can shed doubt on the possible accuracy of the entire book. Konis asked his Grandma Olga why his father's parents only had one child and was told that his grandmother had miscarried many times. Konis should have left it at that, but he continued with an impossibly inaccurate for the time "detail" about the miscarriages. Firstly, pregnancies were followed and described by months not weeks until close to the end of the 20th century. Secondly, fetal heartbeats couldn't be heard as early as nine weeks until the 1970's. When I had my older children in the early 1970's doctors could only hear heartbeats about the same time that the baby began actively moving in the womb. This bothered me, but it certainly didn't make me put the book down.

Konis is a very talented writer. His Grandmother Olga certainly comes alive as does the story he imagines for his grandparents. No doubt that most is very plausible. While reading his book I was reminded of how I don't know about my grandparents. I definitely recommend buying "The Conversations We Never Had."

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5 comments:

Jeff Konis's said...

Hi Shiloh, this is Jeff Konis and I want to thank you for your sensitive and thoughtful review. I must address your correction as to the miscarriages. You are absolutely correct though at least by 1993, if not earlier, my ex-wife endured a number of miscarriages that had been measured by weeks; I am embarrassed to say this but my father is a retired ob/gyn and, of course, I should have checked the point with him. Please know, however, an error in the nature of science is very different from one in history. Know that the following is true: It was just Olga, Sonia and their dad, that Olga had attended university in Liege, spoke French fluently, attended Sorbonne for a semester, had travelled to Berlin to see her friend through whom she met her husband there. Yes, both ended up in the Kovno ghetto and later the camps; he was actually in Dachau and she ended up in a satellite camp of Ravensbruck though I don't know which one. She did go back to find any remnant of her family, etc. She and her husband never had any children - I don't know why. My father was an only child and does not know why there were no siblings or recalls what his father looked like; his story as told towards the end is as true as he recalls it. The stories in the camp, how Olga survived, the Russian acts toward the guards are fictional but plausible. The ghetto story, while fictional, again is plausible as the rules in the Kovno ghetto did forbid pregnancies; the story of the transport fictional but plausible. I am out of room but feel free to email me at jeffreykonis@gmail.com. Thank you again. Jeff

Batya Medad said...

Amazing an enjoyable book. I'm so glad to have gotten a chance to read and review it.
I'm sure that the malnutrition and starvation were also effective birth control. All of those survivors had such emotional strength. Excellent book.

PS Next time you'll get a better editor...

Jeff Konis's said...

Sorry, it's Jeff Konis again. I had never asked her why my father's parents never had any other children - that falls under conversations she and I never had. Apropos of your correction, my father was bothered by the fact that the book had to be labeled as fiction because so micy of it was true, i.e., my speculation that the reason Olga didn't have any of her own children was very likely because her husband, Bonya did not want any, not wanting to share Olga's attention with anyone, including a child. Also, historically speaking the book is accurate, i.e., the creative luminaries were in Paris during the period when Olga was there at the Sorbonne, timing of historical events, Erika Fischer had been the commadant of the camp mentioned in the book and which was in fact liberated by the Russians, etc. The stories of my experiences with her in the apartment are true, from the kitchen story to the bathtub debacle, the matches, and so on. Please email me with any questions you might have. Again, thank you so much for your kind words.

Mr. Cohen said...

BOOK REVIEW:

Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy
by Peter Schweizer, year 2005

This entertaining book is filled with devastating attacks against:
Michael Moore, Al Franken, Ralph Nader, Barbra Streisand, Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, Noam Chomsky, George Soros, Barbra Streisand, Gloria Steinem and Nancy Pelosi.

Why do Jewish Liberals approve of “Social Justice” because it is “straight from the Torah,” but they are not interested in: eating kosher only every day, or observing Shabbat correctly every week, or praying in synagogue every day while wearing kosher tefillin, or the prohibition against homosexuality, (etc, etc, etc) even though all those things are “straight from the Torah?”

“Liberals have a sort of death wish, really wanting to go down in flames.
Action or success makes them suspicious, and they almost lose interest.
They like it much better to have a cause than to have a course of action that’s been successful.”

SOURCE: RFK and His Times by Arthur Schlesinger

PS: Please read my most recent guest-post on this blog:

Why Israel’s 1967 Borders are Undefendable:
https://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2017/03/guest-post-why-1967-borders-are-suicide.html

Batya Medad said...

Jeff, not everyone in those days wanted kids or could have them. They did come from a small family, just two girls, and since finally your father -a boy- was born, that may have seen like "enough." And Olga was an "intellectual." You had to be wealthy to do it all, so kids weren't a priority.

Mr. Cohen, off topic.