Among the Branded
While attending a “living history” event with her family, Stephanie Britain stumbles across a vendor selling love letters from World War II. On a whim, she picks up a few, thinking they might benefit a project she’s working on in her career as an branding and advertising marketer. However, when she has one of the letters translated into English, she’s shocked that not only is the subject the exact same age as her own recently-departed father, but he has since immigrated to America and lives only a few hours away. Steph decides she absolutely has to meet Isadore Fischer–known to friends as Izzy–so that she can return the letter to him.
What follows is a beautiful friendship: Izzy is a vibrant, fun man who becomes almost like a father to Steph, and her entire family welcomes him into the fold with open arms. With Steph’s support, Izzy finally reconnects with certain aspects of his past: he meets the woman who saved him from Auschwitz, he gives a speech to Steph’s son’s history class, and he even gives an interview about his experience to the Holocaust museum.
Meanwhile, there is turmoil in Steph’s career. Not only is her boss looking to sell the business, but Steph discovers something about one of the new clients that makes her question continuing at the firm.
Linda Smolkin’s novel Among the Branded deals with the never pleasant topic of the Holocaust, albeit in a somewhat more roundabout manner; it’s not set during World War II but decades later, and Izzy was never in a concentration camp. Instead, he was what was referred to as a “hidden child,” one of the many children who was cared for by someone else in order to hide his Jewish ancestry. While the story does not deal directly with some of the more horrifying aspects of the Holocaust, it does paint a clear picture of how its memory affects both survivors and soldiers, as well as the descendants of both.
The story also gets into interesting issues of personal morality as Steph struggles with her company’s client and whether she can work with him and keep a clear conscience. Readers will appreciate Steph’s inner battle, and all the more so because she is able to come up with a creative solution that satisfies her integrity without creating a negative situation with the client.
Perhaps the best part of this book is the wonderful friendship between Izzy and Steph, not to mention the rest of her family. Izzy is fun and brings a much-needed element to the dynamics of Steph’s family: he’s like a father of sorts to both Steph and her husband, a “cool” grandpa to her kids, and a friend to her mother. While the circumstances that brought them all together are tragic, the resulting relationships are priceless. This is a beautiful and fascinating novel that will keep readers hooked.
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Chris Hayden has been working at City Book Review since 2012, so that makes him the keeper of knowledge. He manages the office and book reviewers (all 200 of them!), which is no small feat. If you’re looking at the book reviews here, you’re seeing them because he sent the books out for review. Without him, this place would fall apart, because no one else in the office knows how to use the postage machine. Two words: job security.
|Page Count||262 pages|
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