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Reviewed by Alice DiNizo for Readers' Favorite
Unmarried Holocaust survivor Sidonia Perlstein immigrated with her toddler daughter, Hanna, to the United States in those years right after the World War. Sidonia settled in Springfield, Massachusetts, in a neighborhood of Jews, many coming as survivors from the Nazi concentration camps. Stoic Sidonia is a highly gifted seamstress and finds work in a local garment factory, supporting herself and Hanna. And author Hanna tells the reader of her mother's often horrific life in a style that resembles the thread being unwound from a spool, slowly but surely.
The book begins as Hanna writes of her life in the United States with her single mother Sidonia who fashions coutoure clothing for Hanna and who, bit by bit, shares with Hanna her enchanted memories of her early life in the village of Damoc, Hungary. Then Hanna points out that what she discovers is not so enchanting. On March 19, 1944, Adolf Eichmann and the Nazis invaded Hungary and began "uncategorized, undefinable madness". Sidonia is the only member of her family that survived the awfulness of being dragged from the nearby Jewish ghetto to Auschwitz, then Dachau, and finally Bergen Belsen where she met the not yet famous Anne Frank. Author Hanna Marcus tells of coming to love her mother, finding out about her young father, delving into the fate of family members and piecing together in sequence her mother's narratives with numerous clear photographs and copies of note books, of lists, and of birth and death certificates. "Sidonia's Thread" is the unravelling and telling of one woman's remarkable survival. It is a highly readable story that is not to be missed.
"Sidonia's Thread" is one of those books that the reader will not be able to put down until the last word is read and the book put aside. The writing is superb and the characters spring to life in the book's pages: Sidonia with her memories, Hanna, the listener, Sidonia's sisters and parents, the neighbors in both the United States and years before, in Hungary. The photographs and photocopies are well-placed and add to this memoir as do the chapter headings taken from Sidonia's Coats and Clark sewing book. In short, "Sidonia's Thread" is a tale worth telling.