In local author Norah Labiner’s German for Travelers, Lemon Leopold is a young Hollywood actress in search of her family history. She travels to Berlin with her cousin Eliza, who writes romance novels. The two of them set out to unravel the secrets of their family’s history. While in Berlin, they uncover the mysteries never before known to them, beginning with the life of their great-grandfather, Jozef Apfel, a Jewish psychoanalyst in Germany during the early 20th century.
|german for travelers: a novel in 95 lessons by norah labiner. published by coffee house press (2009). $14.95. norah labiner reads from german for travelers on may 21 at 7:00 p.m. at hamline midway branch library, 1558 w. minnehaha ave., st. paul.|
Labiner’s novel is broken up into 95 short lessons (chapters); each of them begins with an English title, followed by its German translation. The story moves from the doctor’s house to the life of his patient Elsa to the birth of Nazi Germany to Detroit in the 1960s and 70s—and back to Berlin. As Lemon and Eliza probe into the depths of their family history they uncover untold secrets and long-forgotten ghosts, and along the way they catch a glimpse of the future.
Labiner weaves a tale that is well-told, although a bit confusing at times with the many alternating places and times. She brings in an incredible amount of history, portrayed in a very poignant way. The short chapters make it easy to keep reading just one more, so the book is a fast read. I read the book on a rainy day, and that was the perfect kind of day on which to read this dark, thought-provoking story.
Mary Thoemke, a lifelong resident of St. Paul, is a freelance writer for the Daily Planet.
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