Ain, Meryl. “The Takeaway Men: A Novel”, Spark Press, 2020.
Twin sisters Bronka and Johanna Lubinski and their parents come to the US from a Displaced Persons Camp after World War II and experience the difficulties of adjusting to American culture and the fear of the Cold War. Years later when a former Nazi is discovered to be hiding in their community brings the Holocaust back to them. As the girls mature, they begin wondering about their parents’ pasts, and they start demanding answers. It is clear that those memories will be difficult and painful to uncover and as they probe, they face the impact of immigration, identity, prejudice, secrets, and lies on parents and children in mid-twentieth-century America.
The book is fiction but many of the events and circumstances are factual. A Jew and A Gentile deal with the nightmare of circumstances that they endured in Poland during World War ll and in the aftermath. The Jewish man (the twin’s father), Aron, had a cousin who took them in and gave them a home, a job, and a new family. Just before beginning their new life, the Gentile, Edyta, gave birth, to twin girls. Before arriving in America, Edyta and the girls needed to change their names to Jewish/American names.
While living at their new residence in America, the twins grow and develop friendships with both Jewish and Gentile Friends, but were raised strictly Jewish by their parents. We read of the experiences of some of the new friends and neighbors and of the strictness in living one’s religious beliefs, of various degrees of prejudice, and of various degrees of self that they allow others to see.
We see the inhumanity and cruelty of individuals because of differences in beliefs, race, religion, social class, skin color and other physical differences. We also see the importance of being of the past.
“The Takeaway Man” gives us a fresh take on the impact of the Holocaust on survivors and their children. While Bronka and Johanna grow up in in post WW II Queens, New York, their neighborhood looks idyllic, but there are always troubles awaiting them and their friends.
We enter a layered world of many different characters in this complex, difficult, novel about the identity of the Jewish community following the Holocaust and the problems and it faced. This is the story of what happens to a family after liberation in postwar Jewish America, the story of survivors whose lives were intertwined and shaped by the horrors of the Holocaust and its aftermath.