“Eli’s Promise: A Novel” by Ronald H. Balson— Betrayal and Justice

Balson, Ronald H. “Eli’s Promise: A Novel”, St. Martin’s, 2020.

Betrayal and Justice

Amos Lassen

Ronald H. Balson’s “Eli’s Promise” spans three eras―Nazi-occupied Poland, the American Zone of post-war Germany, and Chicago at the height of the Vietnam War. It examines explores the human cost of war, the mixed blessings of survival, and the enduring strength of family bonds.

In 1939, Eli Rosen, his wife Esther and their young son in live the Polish town of Lublin. His family owns a construction company. Because of the Nazi occupation, Eli’s company is “Aryanized” and appropriated and transferred to Maximilian Poleski―a profiteer with no principles sells favors to Lublin’s subjugated residents. He forms an alliance with the Rosen family to keep them safe if Eli will manage the business.

In 1946 Eli and his son are in a displaced persons camp in Allied-occupied Germany hoping for a visa to America. Mrs. Rosen has been missing since the war. There is a man walking around the camps selling illegal visas and he might know what has happened to her.

In 1965, Eli rents a room in Albany Park, Chicago. He is on a mission and goes through unfamiliar streets and dangerous political backrooms, searching for the truth.

I became so involved in the plot that I began turning pages as quickly as possible hoping to learn what was happening to the Rosens. Balson writes with wonderful historical detail and brings us unforgettable characters.

The book begins with Hitler beginning his war and the genocide of the Jews. We a look at a young family and their attempts to be  human in a world that treated them as nothing more than prey. In the second part, camp survivors have been rescued and misplaced throughout several US temporary camps, most of them only wanting to get US visas to try and start anew. The third part moves to Chicago in the 60’s. All the while Eli promises to find vengeance, justice and answers.  We also read about corruption in Chicago as we follow the characters from Poland, to France and then to the America. 

Here is a prominent Jewish family that is stripped of their lives by the Germans. Promises of protection were made and sold to those who were desperate to find a way to live but to the Germans and to profiteers, it was just a game.

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