“Eva and Eve: A Search for My Mother’s Lost Childhood and What a War Left Behind” by Julia Metz— Then and Now

Metz, Julia. “Eva and Eve: A Search for My Mother’s Lost Childhood and What a War Left Behind”, Atria, 2021.

Then and Now

Amos Lassen

In “Eva and Eve: A Search for My Mother’s Lost Childhood and What a War Left Behind” is Julia Metz’s account of her late mother’s childhood in Nazi-occupied Austria and the parallels she sees in present-day America. 

Metz’s  mother, Eve, was the quintessential New Yorker. She rarely spoke about her childhood and it was difficult for her daughter to imagine her living anywhere else except Manhattan, where she attended concerts at Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera or enjoying the restaurant scene. 

In truth, Eve had endured a harrowing childhood in Nazi-occupied Vienna. After her mother passed, Julie discovered a keepsake book filled with farewell notes from friends and relatives addressed to a ten-year-old girl named Eva. This long-hidden memento was the first clue to the secret pain that Julie’s mother had carried as a refugee and immigrant, shining a light on a family that had to persevere at every turn to escape the antisemitism and xenophobia that threatened their survival. Metztraces her search for her mother’s lost childhood and as she does, she shows us the resilience of our forebears and the sacrifices that ordinary people had to make during the worst times in our history. As she went through some of the things that he mother left behind, Metz discovered her mother’s past—two worlds— one ofher family’s escape from the Nazis, and the other, the present-day world. 

We meet three generations of women—grandmother, mother, daughter whose lives come together. We read of her mother’s escape from Nazi-occupied Vienna to New York City and see how it had echoed through her own life through today. Metz mixes research with imagination and she brings Eva, her mother back to life as she discovers her family history. We read of the emotional connections of a middle-class family to its home and of the complicated connections that Metz shared with her mother and her own daughter.  This is a family history of loss, escape, and refugee life as seen through her  mother’s childhood and that was lost to her.

Here are the ways history shapes a family. As we explore the past, we find a warning for the future. We are presented with what it is to the stressful life in this country today and see its relation to Nazi Germany. It is important for us to know our pasts so that we can better understand the present. In her mother, Metz shows how a victim of circumstance did not allow her life to be dominated by what she and that she was able to rise above it.

We are pulled into the Metz’ family history, reading how they dealt with their situation and how this affected the family. We then find the same feeling as we read of the author’s present life.