Holocaust survivor Edith Eger writes memoir with integrity, conviction

  • Kirkus Reviews
12:00 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017 Insight and Books
‘The Choice,’ Edith Eger

Mental health professional Edith Eger braids stories of her patients’ epiphanies with her own personal journey through Nazi Germany in “The Choice.”

As a Holocaust survivor and clinical psychologist, 89-year-old Eger is often introduced to her audiences at speaking engagements as “the Anne Frank who didn’t die.” Her poignantly crafted memoir is a meditation on two motifs: the internal struggle of psychologically troubled individuals and the deep shadows cast upon the future of a concentration camp survivor. As a teenager living as the “silent sister” in a dynamic Jewish-Hungarian family in Czechoslovakia, the author recalls being forcibly “resettled” to a labor camp and then transported by train as “human cargo” to Auschwitz, where her parents were promptly executed. Eger was somehow spared, and notoriously sadistic executioner Josef Mengele commanded her to dance in exchange for rare bread rations. Sent to other concentration camps, she was plucked, nearly lifeless, from a carcass heap as the war ended. She married, bore children, befriended fellow survivor Viktor Frankl, and began the “cautious joy” of a new life and career in America. Yet she grew desperate to redress a history scarred by evil: “I began to formulate a new relationship with my own trauma.” Crosscutting this intensely bittersweet narrative are portraitures of the author’s clinical patients, many of whose experiences mirrored much of what Eger had to overcome in order to thrive in society. She intriguingly compares her office sessions, and in mining the roots of pain and victimization, she declares that “suffering is universal … but victimhood is optional.” The distressed fabric of the author’s traumatic past becomes a beautiful backdrop for a memoir written with integrity and conviction. Throughout, Eger is strong in her knowledge of what makes life better for those of us willing to relinquish past “regret and unresolved grief” and “enjoy the full, rich feast of life.”

A searing, astute study of intensive healing and self-acceptance through the absolution of suffering and atrocity.

(Eger will speak and sign copies of her book starting at 7 p.m. Oct. 16 at BookPeople. Free to attend; only books purchased at BookPeople are eligible for signing. Information: bookpeople.com.)

Taking action against cyberattacks

Video game developer Zoë Quinn tells how she became an outspoken advocate for victims of online abuse in “Crash Override.”

In August 2014, the life Quinn had built after “clawing my way out of poverty, homelessness, isolation, and mental illness” changed forever. An abusive ex-lover had decided to take revenge by posting hateful messages about her on video game forums. One post included a link to a 9,000-word “manifesto” that claimed Quinn had slept with video game evaluators to receive favorable reviews. A few months later, she found herself at the center of a cultural storm that came to be known as GamerGate. Hackers sympathetic to her ex hounded Quinn’s past associates. Online, they posted nude photos and “discussions about how to drive me to suicide and the merits of raping me versus torturing me first and raping me afterwards.” The author began keeping her whereabouts secret because she felt as unsafe in her virtual life as she did in her real one. Refusing to be cowed into silence, she attempted to seek justice only to find that the “legal system (was) ill-equipped to handle the idea that anything real happens on the internet.” In response, she founded an online abuse crisis hotline and victims’ advocacy group, which she named Crash Override Network. Quinn’s book is strongest in the detailed information she provides about the many — mostly underdiscussed — legal and corporate bottlenecks she encountered as both a victim and investigator of malicious cyberattacks. One especially disturbing observation she makes is that typical victims come from sexually and racially marginalized groups that law enforcement has “a history of mistreating.” Her story, which mingles details from her personal and professional lives along with hard-won tips for online safety, sometimes comes across as scattered. Nevertheless, the narrative is still a worthwhile read for anyone interested in taking action against the realities — and devastating effects — of extreme internet trolling.

“Crash Override” is not without flaws but an informative and inspiring book.

(Quinn will speak and sign copies of her book starting at 7 p.m. Oct. 17 at BookPeople. Free to attend; only books purchased at BookPeople are eligible for signing. Information: bookpeople.com.)

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