About the book, Eva and Eve
• Publisher: Atria Books (April 6, 2021)
• Hardcover: 320 pages
The author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Perfection returns with an unforgettable account of her late mother’s childhood in Nazi-occupied Austria and the parallels she sees in present-day America.
To Julie Metz, her mother, Eve, was the quintessential New Yorker. Eve rarely spoke about her childhood and it was difficult to imagine her living anywhere else except Manhattan, where she could be found attending Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera or inspecting a round of French triple crème at Zabar’s.
In truth, Eve had endured a harrowing childhood in Nazi-occupied Vienna. After her mother passed, Julie discovered a keepsake book filled with farewell notes from friends and relatives addressed to a ten-year-old girl named Eva. This long-hidden memento was the first clue to the secret pain that Julie’s mother had carried as a refugee and immigrant, shining a light on a family that had to persevere at every turn to escape the antisemitism and xenophobia that threatened their survival.
Interweaving personal memoir and family history, Eva and Eve vividly traces one woman’s search for her mother’s lost childhood while revealing the resilience of our forebears and the sacrifices that ordinary people are called to make during history’s darkest hours.
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About the author, Julie Metz
Julie Metz is the New York Times bestselling author of PERFECTION. Her new release is EVA AND EVE: A SEARCH FOR MY MOTHER’S LOST CHILDHOOD AND WHAT A WAR LEFT BEHIND. Julie is the recipient of fellowships at MacDowell, Yaddo, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She has written for publications including The New York Times, Dame, and Salon and essays have appeared in THE MOMENT and THE HOUSE THAT MADE ME. She lives with her family in the Hudson Valley.
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This review is very late in coming. My life has been utter chaos since February with too-infrequent moments of calm. Apologies to the author, and to TLC Book Reviews, which provided a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
Julie Metz’s book Eva and Eve is not your average holocaust survivor story, though it would be a worthy read in any case. Rather, it’s the author’s personal story of learning about her mother as the woman she knew and the girl she once was. As someone who has recently experienced a lot of loss, I’m no stranger to the surprises we find hidden away in our parents’ and grandparents’ houses. My family is Italian and Catholic, Metz’s family is Austrian and Jewish, but her story resonated with me because what we share, though for me it’s one generation removed, is the experience of being related to recent (so to speak) immigrants.
But you don’t have to be the daughter or granddaughter of immigrants to appreciate this book, because, from word one, Eva and Eve is a work of both art and love.
Let’s start with the language. I’ve both read this and listened to the audiobook, and the language Metz uses is both beautiful and lyrical, while also being completely honest and authentic. There are passages that are serious, even brutal, and moments where levity takes over, and both in the extrapolated, even lightly fictionalized stories of her mother’s (and grandmother’s) youth, and in her own, contemporary observations there is a perfect flow, and graceful pace.
Metz’s observations were actually one of my favorite part of this book, because she isn’t just reciting research, she’s immersed herself in history and exploration, of the places where her family originated, and of the remaining people who knew them or at least knew of them.
One of my favorite examples of Metz’s voice is this line that appears about 2/3 into the book: The houses looked different right away – now stone and stucco – and the people on the narrow streets dressed like Italians, somehow more put together than rumpled Americans, even in jeans and t-shirts. It’s a line that has nothing to do with the details of the history the author is trying to discover, but everything to do with how she sees the world, and I love the way it’s presented.
Eva and Eve is not an average holocaust survivor story. Nor is it a typical memoir. Rather, it’s an artful, loving dive into the history of the author’s own family, and a deeply satisfying read that almost every woman will find somehow relatable.
Goes well with: espresso and anisette toast.
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