Paper Love

Paper Love

Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind

Format
Hardcover
 
Additional Formats
  • Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781594631559
  • 400 Pages
  • Riverhead
  • Adult

Overview

One woman’s journey to find the lost love her grandfather left behind when he fled pre-World War II Europe, and an exploration into family identity, myth, and memory.

Years after her grandfather’s death, journalist Sarah Wildman stumbled upon a cache of his letters in a file labeled “Correspondence: Patients A–G.” What she found inside weren’t dry medical histories; instead what was written opened a path into the destroyed world that was her family’s prewar Vienna. One woman’s letters stood out: those from Valy—Valerie Scheftel.   Her grandfather’s lover who had remained behind when he fled Europe six months after the Nazis annexed Austria.

Valy’s name wasn’t unknown to her—Wildman had once asked her grandmother about a dark-haired young woman whose images she found in an old photo album. “She was your grandfather’s true love,” her grandmother said at the time, and refused any other questions. But now, with the help of the letters, Wildman started to piece together Valy’s story. They revealed a woman desparate to escape and  clinging to the memory of a love that defined her years of freedom.

Obsessed with Valy’s story, Wildman began a quest that lasted years and spanned continents. She discovered, to her shock, an entire world of other people searching for the same woman. On in the course of  discovering  Valy’s ultimate fate, she was forced to reexamine the story of her grandfather’s triumphant escape and how this history fit within her own life and in the process, she rescues a life seemingly lost to history.
 

Praise

“Ignore anyone who tells you there is nothing more to be said about the Holocaust, and no new ways of telling the tragedy. Sarah Wildman’s gripping, tender, beautifully painful book gets to the heart of the matter through matters of the heart. And along with the pathos and pain, there is profound and honest thoughtfulness too. “—Simon Schama, author of The Story of the Jews

“This profound book derives its power not so much from the love story at its heart, but from the historical urgency with which Wildman infuses it. The author makes clear that only by engaging with inherited past trauma deeply and fully can individuals and communities begin the long and difficult process of looking for ways to regain wholeness. A poignant and humane memoir.”—Kirkus

Wildman’s extensive investigation into her grandfather’s history is well documented and analyzed, but it is her determination to find out what happened to Valy, a woman at the periphery of the family circle, that distinguishes this family history. The author’s gradual realization that others cared about Valy’s fate, too, led her to a larger understanding of the unbearable circumstances and decisions faced by everyone involved, even those lucky enough to establish new lives elsewhere.”—Library Journal (starred)

“Wildman’s intimate and mesmerizing biography blends her family history into the larger framework of World War II and the Holocaust.”—Publishers Weekly

“In this captivating and elegantly written book, Sarah Wildman uses the story of a single, fascinating but utterly normal woman to illuminate the tragedy of the millions murdered during the Holocaust. Though the themes are universal—family, memory, myth—what makes this remarkable book shine is the way Wildman brings to life a person lost to history, making us care desperately both for her and for her vanished world.”—Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Treasure

“In spellbinding prose, Sarah Wildman traces her quest to understand what happened to her grandfather’s mysterious lover whom he had to leave behind when he fled Vienna in 1938. Revealing deeper truths about history and the tricky nature of memory, Paper Love is a breathtakingly powerful and beautiful new book.”—David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z

Paper Love begins with a quest for a lost lover, and then radically inverts that path.  Here the search becomes a tale of not one person, but of how each person is so much more than one, how no single life has meaning without all the others that encircle it. Wildman’s spellbinding story, with its dramatic and unexpected twists, breathes each forgotten person back to life.”—Dara Horn, author of The World To Come

“Sarah Wildman is a member of the last generation of young Jews who grew up in families presided over by Holocaust survivors and their stories—both the reliable tales and the necessary myths. Wildman long ago turned her attention to the complex afterlife of the Holocaust, and this book—thoroughly researched, adventurously reported, and vulnerably written—has fulfilled her promise as the most important literary representative of her generation.”—Gideon Lewis-Kraus, author of A Sense of Direction

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