Genre: historical fiction
I’ve got a soft spot for Holocaust stories of survival. They remind me how horrible humans can be to one another, and how awful racism and prejudice can get when promoted. We should never let that chapter of humanity die; we should teach our children what happened and why; we should never forget, so that we never repeat.
That being said –
Isaac (inspired by a true story) is the story of a boy who escapes the horror of the Massacre at Sosenki; for those of you who don’t know, that’s when Jews from Rovno were rounded up like cattle, marched into the forest, told they were being taken somewhere safe, and then shot to death and buried in a mass grave. Yes, that really happened – I’m not making it up – 23,000 Jews were murdered.
But, Isaac manages to escape and begins his story of survival in the wilderness, all the while hiding, worrying, nearly starving to death, meeting thieves and bandits, and using his wit to make it through all that he encounters.
While I enjoyed Isaac, I didn’t feel pulled into the story. While the story had all the pulls of a great story, (witty protagonist, twists and turns, and plenty of gray-area characters), it reads like a nonfiction book; it’s very textbooky in some places. I would have liked more raw narration, I suppose, rather than the stage-direction type narration. It was very “this happened, this happened, he felt this.” It did a great job of telling me about his emotion, but handing his emotions to me so that I could feel them.
It could have also used a round of editing. (Like I’m one to talk, right?):
“For a week, no one else visited them for a week.”
“It didn’t matter to them were the borders were.”
Overall, I gave Isaac a 3 out of 5, because while the story itself was amazing, the writing just didn’t pull me in. I didn’t have that feverish desire to get back to the book. Yet, anyone who’s into the history of the Holocaust or that time period, would surely love this book. I’ve got a friend who is, and I’m making sure he knows about it!