Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scribner Book Company - September 5th, 2017
Dr. Edith Eger's memoir offers hope for the new year. A moving account of Eger's family dynamics, her imprisonment in Auschwitz, and her healing journey after the war. Edith danced the Blue Danube Waltz for Mengele, she slept in Goebbels' bed, and though she forgave Hitler at the ruins of the Eagle's Nest, self-forgiveness was her greatest trial.
Edith recounts a touching moment when she and her sister Magda just had their heads shaved at the camp:
'"How do I look?' is the bravest thing I've ever heard. There aren't mirrors here. She is asking me to help her find herself. And so I tell her the only thing that is mine to say. 'Your eyes', I tell my sister, 'they're so beautiful. I never noticed them when they were covered up by all that hair.' It is the first time I see that I have a choice: to pay attention to what we've lost or pay attention to what we still have."
After their release and return home to Hungary, the sisters process their suffering in different ways: "Magda, her pain visible only in the humor she uses to transcend it"; and Edith's trauma resurfaces as flashbacks, "I don't yet understand that they are physiological manifestations of the grief that I haven't dealt with yet. A clue my body sends as a reminder of the feelings I have blocked from my conscious life." Edith braves a return visit to Auschwitz where she unlocks a repressed memory enabling her to finally forgive herself.
In an effort to integrate her past, Edith studied psychiatry, earned her Ph.D. and now assists others with PTSD. Dr. Eger wonders to herself what a little Hungarian ballet student has to offer men and women of war:
"I reminded myself that I was there to share the most important truth I know, that the biggest prison is in your own mind, and in your pocket you already hold the key: the willingness to take absolute responsibility for your life; the willingness to risk; the willingness to release yourself from judgement and reclaim your innocence, accepting and loving yourself for who you really are - human, imperfect, and whole."
The Choice is haunting, heart-wrenching and healing.