The Conversations we Never Had – Where an Old Lady gave me A History Lesson


Publication date : May 3rd, 2016goodreads

Publisher : Outskirt Press

Genre : Non-Fiction | Historical Fiction

Page Count: 208

Synopsis : This is the dream of a grandson, who had taken his grandmother for granted, to have a second chance, the opportunity to learn about his family from the only person in the world who knew them, who remembered them. My father remembers nothing about his real parents for they were dead by the time he was nine. Olga, his mother’s younger sister, survived the Holocaust, found my father hiding on a farm in Poland and later brought him to America to raise as her own. He never asked her any questions about his parents. Though I later moved in with Olga for a period of time, I repeated history and never asked her the questions my father never asked. Olga has been gone for more than twenty years, along with everything she could have told me, leaving me with a sense of guilt and profound regret. The Conversations We Never Had is a chronicle of my time spent with Grandma “Ola” and tells the stories she might have shared had I asked the questions. (From Goodreads)

Rating: 3.5 stars

The Conversations.png

*I was provided a copy of this book by the author and Book Publicity Services in exchange of an honest review* 

(No Spoilers)

If you guys know anything about me, you know that I don’t usually read non-fiction, it is just not something that draws my attention or captivates me. But this book made the cut simply because of the Historical Fiction part of it, and that is one of my favorite genres expecially when it is about the period around WWII, that is a time period that fascinates me and I’ll never get tired of reading books set then. But because of the fact that Conversations is non-fiction, 2 things happened:

  1. I went in very sceptical and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it
  2. I don’t know how to properly review it (Hello non-fiction Newbie!)

Anyway, let’s do this! The writing is my least favorite part of it all, not that it’s bad or anything. It is a style common to a lot of non-fiction and one I don’t personally enjoy because it is mostly this happened and I did this and that, and can drag quite a bit when you don’t like it. One other thing that annoyed me is how lengthy and unnecessary some of the descriptions are. I am not even kidding or exaggerating, somewhere around the beginning I got 2 pages of the author describing AN APPARTMENT, just why? I don’t see why it is relevant to the story in this case.

Luckily, the book is mostly one giant dialogue which would’ve bothered me in any other circumstances but it worked with what the other was trying to achieve. History was told in a conversational tone, like if I my grandma was really telling me about her past experiences and that kept me captivated through the book and I didn’t feel bored whatsoever. I wish all my history lessons were taught this way!

The concept is original as well. The author explores the What ifs of his own life, some regrets that he cannot fix. What if he had taken advantage of the time he had with Grandma Ola? What if she had told him all about her life as well as his biological grand-parents lives? And from there on, he threads a story -with the help of actual facts he had from his grandma’s past as well as history- of what she might have told him if he had taken the time to sit with her and listen to her. What he comes up with is such a poignant, raw story of a Holocaust surviver. And the research he did on the matter really showed through the pages of the book.

The author imagines what his grandma’s life might have been like from when she was a little girl until she moved to America looking for a fresh start. And that ranges from her relationship with the people in her life to what might have been her horrifying survival story. In my opinion, he manages to translate the terrifying situations greatly.

“Can you imagine your father, a little boy, hiding like that, knowing that a sneeze of a cough at the wrong time could be the end of him?”

“This was one of the most terrifying things to do in thoses days, to run from a German soldier with your back to him; you never knew whether the next step would be your last. This was a world where people could kill you at anytime and for nothing. Nothing.”

The author uses this opportunity to explore Jewish values, customs and beliefs in different fields. Like for exemple, why they prefered marrying other Jews, why they choose to learn crafts and do jobs where they didn’t have to depend on anyone. And so on and so forth. Another thing I really appreciated is how this book gives life lessons implicitely. On love, marriage, social interactions, personal growth, privilege, judging people etcetera etcetera.

All in all, I would recommend this book to everyone, especially if you’re interested in learning about the Holocaust, as well as what life before and after. It is an enjoyable, quick and informative read.

That’s it until next time.

Did you read The Conversations we never had? If so, what did you think?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.