Home Was a Dream

Fiction - Drama
315 Pages
Reviewed on 04/01/2024
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Home Was a Dream is a work of fiction in the interpersonal drama, emotive writing, and recent historical subgenres. It is best suited to the adult reading audience owing to its Holocaust-centric narrative as well as some instances of violence, sex, and strong language. Penned by author Jason Warburg, the tale follows three generations bound by music and burdened by untold secrets. Tim Green, grappling with his impending parenthood, delves into his music writer father's history and uncovers a concealed legacy: his grandfather was a Holocaust survivor. Tracing their lives from San Francisco to New York to the Czech countryside, Tim realizes how missed turning points shaped his family's trajectory. The collision of past traumas and present realities propels Tim on a relentless quest for understanding. As he confronts the whispered secrets of his family's past, Tim is driven to comprehend the implications of this legacy for his own future.

Author Jason Warburg has crafted a novel that skillfully intertwines personal struggles with historical generational trauma, offering a compelling exploration of family dynamics and the enduring impact that persecution can have on future generations. Tim's journey of self-discovery and reconciliation with his family's past resonates deeply, reminding readers of the importance of confronting history and embracing one's identity, but also not losing yourself and hope for your own future in the process. The storyline flows with a slow-burning plot of interesting discoveries, building with more and more tension and impact for a brilliant conclusion that both satisfies and educates. The themes of resilience, love, and the search for meaning create a powerful narrative that lingers in the mind long after the final page. Overall, I would certainly recommend Home Was a Dream as a poignant and enlightening experience for one and all.

Lucinda E Clarke

Home Was a Dream by Jason Warburg begins with the intriguing observation that as children, even when we are adults, we know very little about our parents as people. Why do they behave as they do? This is the one thing that Bernie could never understand as he was growing up. His father Max was nicknamed the Dragon for his moods and explosive anger. He is despotic with his two children, Bernie and Ruth. Years later Bernie’s son Tim learns the family history from his Aunt Ruth. Viktor Zeleny and his brother Tomas were born in Cesky Krumlov, but when the Nazis arrested his grandfather, his parents moved to live with cousins in Prague. Several months later they were also arrested and sent to a camp in Bavaria named Terezin. It was a Nazi show camp and though life was hard it was not a death camp. Here Viktor met Elena and fell in love. Despite all their deprivations, for a short time, they find solace. After the death of their mother, Viktor, his brother, and his father were displaced yet again, this time to Auschwitz. On arrival, Tomas and his father were sent to the gas chambers and Viktor was left to survive any way he could. After liberation, and a long wait in a displaced person’s camp he emigrated to the United States and Viktor Zeleny became Max Green. Life appears to settle as Max marries Eleanor and they have two children, Bernie and Ruth. But, his son is a huge disappointment, choosing to write for a music publication instead of the career his father had planned for him.

I loved Home Was a Dream although it is a very sad tale. It does not follow a linear order of the family as we learn the history of Viktor/Max from his sister who recalls it for his grandson Tim. Jason Warburg’s deep interest in music is highlighted and there is lots of detail about the bands and music of the time. There is also a connection back in time to the music played in the concentration ‘show camp.’ However, the main theme of the tale is how we never really know our parents as people and that touched me deeply. I also appreciated the vivid language: “every particle of the room charged like a cotton shirt full of static” and “the careful rows of lettuce tomatoes and zucchini manicured with a watchmaker’s precision” are just two examples. This book reminds us of the suffering of the Jewish families during the Second World War, even for those who did not actively practice their faith, and how, with courage and endurance the family was able to build a new life in America. An inspiring book.

Kathi Nidd

Jason Warburg's novel, Home Was a Dream, follows the lives of three generations of men. After a poignant and relatable introduction, Warburg intertwines the stories of Tim, Bernie, and Viktor. Tim, a young man living in the present day, is facing new responsibilities of marriage and family life while questioning his past with the help of his caring and insightful aunt, Ruth. Through flashbacks, we learn of Bernie, Tim's father, a Jewish man growing up in the 1960s facing unexpected challenges around war and a strict father with differing viewpoints. Finally, through Ruth's stories, we get to know Viktor, Bernie's father, living through the 1940s and the horrors of the Holocaust. As each generation's story unfolds, we learn of their struggles and the reasons behind their parenting methods and behaviors.

Home Was a Dream is a lovingly written portrayal of a family with the added layer of a thought-provoking nudge: How much do we know about our parents' lives and what shaped how they behave toward us? Jason Warburg's writing is vivid and heartwarming and brought me into the homes and hearts of the three men so clearly that each setting and character came to life right off the page. Through Warburg's carefully crafted story, each experience of Tim, Bernie, and Viktor, be it as small as a child's wish for candy or as large as a world war, caused me to root for and understand them with compassion. This is an intense and soul-searching read full of warmth and depth. I highly recommend it.