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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Jumping Over Shadows is a nonfiction historical memoir written by Annette Gendler. Annette hadn’t really wanted to go to her friend Michael’s birthday party; her father had died unexpectedly just three weeks before that. Michael was insistent, however, and he promised that being among some young people would be just the right thing for her at that point. She was especially not interested in entering a romantic involvement, but somehow the political science student found herself listening to the discussion about the Middle East, and she couldn’t help but weigh in on it. Harry was a fluent and impassioned speaker who seemed to be of a mind with her on the topics, and who insisted on driving her home after the party ended. She had been reluctant to allow him to do so, as the trip home was a relatively long one, but she found herself enjoying the afternoon and that evening ride home much more than she had anticipated. For three years after that, the two would have an enduring and close relationship that defied everything that their families would have envisioned for each of them. The German-American young woman and French-Jewish man each had family history that seemed to make a life together an impossible thing at best, but their love was stronger than that.
Annette Gendler’s nonfiction historical memoir, Jumping Over Shadows, was of particular interest to me as it chronicles the post-war experiences of Germans and Jews. I was stunned to realize just how few Jews were left in German-speaking parts of Europe, even as recently as the 1980s, and I was fascinated by the author’s accounts of her and Harry’s family histories. Her memoir is beautifully written, and the photographs are marvelous! I’ve only recently learned that my German grandfather was Jewish, so Gendler’s story was of particular significance for me. I too have wanted to learn more about Judaism and have considered conversion, so that part of the memoir which covered the early books she read, her studies with the rabbi’s wife and eventual conversion had personal value and impact -- I felt as if I were sharing her journey and learned a great deal along the way. Jumping Over Shadows is most highly recommended.