Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Waiting Room: Love Is More Ferocious Than Terror by Leah Kaminsky

The Waiting Room: Love is More Ferocious Than Terror. Leah Kaminsky. Harper Collins Publishers. November 2016. 320 pp.  ISBN#: 9780062490476.

Children of Holocaust survivors carry a heavy burden!  Dina is living in Haifa, Israel, with her husband.  She’s expecting a child but wonders how her looming fear regarding the warning of an expected terrorist attack by Palestinians will affect her child.  She’s originally from Australia but came to Israel when she visited and found that she felt at home in a way she never had before.  But time has passed and terrorism is a constant nemesis which allows no one to relax – ever!

Add to the mix that her dead mother visits Dina all the time, correcting her behavior, throwing out Jewish maxims, leaking her melancholy mood into the very fiber of Dina’s being.  At first Dina is silent, since she knows that her mother’s memories are never absent, a condition normal for survivors of those awful camps at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.  Dina’s father was silent but by the end of the novel he too will come to share his story.

The result?  Dina is constantly exhausted and not just from her pregnancy.  Her practice as a doctor is filled with severely and moderately sick people, hypochondriacs needing attention (more survivor guilt), and occasional outbursts of hatred toward Arabs, children, etc.  Dina’s focus lately is an overwhelming need to get away – anywhere, anytime, anyplace!  She and her husband are becoming more and more estranged every day and the only reason she doesn’t return to Australia is she doesn’t believe she can take her child away from its father.

Despite all the doom and gloom above, Dina’s got a feisty sense of humor which manifests in almost every situation she finds herself.  However, it usually never passes the thinking stage. The remainder of the story involves the individual stories of her parents, a secret about their family that Dina never imagined, and Dina’s reconciliation with the past and present.  It’s a long, dark, funny, and beautiful journey!

So many novels have been crafted about the Holocaust and its survivors, but Leah Kaminsky has created a unique story about growing from survival which hits the reader as endearingly realistic!  This is a fine, fine work of historical fiction that should be must reading not only for adults but also young adults and/or high school students. 

It is said that history is repeated if one does not learn from it – Leah Kaminsky has given us a character who travels a long journey toward ending a destructive cycle and reentering life.  L’Chaim!

Ray and Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald's Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away by Lisa Napoli

Ray and Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald’s Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away. Lisa Napoli. Penguin Publishing Group. November 2016. 368 pp. ISBN#: 9781101984956. 

Ray Kroc, the founder of the world-wide famous McDonald stores, began with little money but a large imagination.  Lisa Napoli has given the reader a fascinating look at how this mega-business began.  Not only were the ideas waiting to be born by Ray and other entrepreneurs but also the machines that facilitated the delivery of “fast food” within minutes of being ordered.  So, we learn how hamburger presses, French fry cutters, and mixers to make multiple shakes at a time were made.  We hear how company policy was made on how franchise owners would all operate the McDonald stores the same way, including the precise timing for making hamburgers, fries, soda and shakes.  No one could deviate with his or her own version of what was better depending on geographic areas.  Ray’s first and second wives wanted quick success but grew increasingly frustrated at the ups and downs of this process, financially as well as technologically.  His third wife changed his life completely and added the final touch to a dream come true!

Joan Kroc, on the other hand, saw her poor, younger years as ones that would shape the rest of her life but certainly not in the way that most people would expect.  Joan had few talents except for a dazzling, sexy voice.  She was also quite beautiful and took care of her appearance carefully for the rest of her life.  Her empathy with people who were trying to make a living with the lowest minimal wage made her a gift giver whom some called overly generous and others called crazy.

Crazy or not, the reader is uplifted at the way Joan tipped tax drivers and waiters/ waitresses, founded and supported the McDonald’s House institution for families with children suffering from cancer, and it just goes on and on with National Public Radio receiving a shockingly large ($200,000,000) donation, as well as other donations to zoos around the world and a radio station, et al.

Ray and Joan… is fascinating reading sure to please all readers! Very nicely presented Lisa Napoli!