The Lost Family: A Novel
By Jenna Blum
Peter Rashkin has known heartbreak and great suffering from an early age; as a young man he lost his family to the Holocaust, then survived two death camps and moved to America to live with cousins and start anew. Peter becomes a chef, then owner of a beloved restaurant into which he pours his heart and soul – until he meets June Bouquet, the Twiggy-like model who captures his broken heart and attempts to make it whole again.
As time goes by, Peter and June have a daughter, Elsbeth. Peter never speaks of the wife and young daughters he lost in Europe, but Elsbeth learns of them anyhow. Her life is shadowed by her unknown half-sisters, but neither of her parents ever address her questions. Life goes on in a series of day after days for each of them: Peter with a new restaurant, June with her desire for something fresh and new, and Elsbeth, who doesn’t know what she longs for, until a series of misguided choices land her in an untenable position that will push their little family to the brink of shattering.
The Lost Family is a dark, swirling novel that threatens to drown readers in despair while a glimmer of hope extends a life-saving hand now and again. Each of the characters is indeed “lost” in some way, whether it’s the Vietnam vet whose PTSD shatters the chance of a new beginning, or any of the Rashkin family members, each with their own burdensome “baggage” that tugs and drags on them with little relief. The story is brutally honest but also captivating, as Blum’s characterizations and imagery evoke incredible sentiment and empathy without even seeming to try. The Lost Family is hard to put down; far from light summer beach reading, this story will stay with you long after the last page is turned.
Joyce Greenfield, ReaderToReader.com