Where does memory go when it cannot be spoken?
Now we know: It goes on to haunt future generations. It passes unscathed through temperatures that can melt iron and reduce bone to ash. And somewhere far removed in space and decades into the future, a stranger wakes out of a sound sleep with an inexplicable nightmare and a despair so deep as to negate life itself.
At seventeen, Alex was torn from his home and deported to Auschwitz. He outlived his family, his faith, and his culture. His memory filled with the death of a people, unable to speak of what he had done to survive, he was locked in the silent prison of his guilt. This unforgettable and breathtakingly powerful book follows Alex on his journey from the flames of Birkenau to atonement, transformation, and redemption.
Returning is a haunting and compelling exploration of the choices we make in a choiceless time, the terrifying strength and burden of the will to survive, and the power of the human spirit to transcend even its own destruction. It will leave you changed forever.
Advance Praise for Returning
Intriguing! At times dark and haunting, at times lyrical and introspective. Returning will resonate long after ‘the end’.
—Dan Sofer, author of the Dry Bones Society trilogy
From the horrors of the Birkenau crematoria and the dilemmas of survival that are forever etched in our hearts, to the profound dialogues of Talmudic debate, Returning reaches from the past to the present, challenging us to examine ourselves as Jews, and our relation to God in a world gone mad…. Shahar’s writing echoes with the voices of Elie Wiesel, Viktor Frankl, and Primo Levi, and reaches even beyond—giving us a book of resounding impact that will surely continue to affect us for years to come.
— Chana Rosen, Jewish Press Book Supplement
A well written and highly unusual Holocaust memoir with a twist…. An absorbing and courageous book, Returning is a must-read for those wishing to embark on a profound, painful, but ultimately hopeful journey into the human soul. By its end, the reader cannot help but be a changed person.
— Yael Unterman, author of Nehama Leibowitz, Teacher and Bible Scholar
Of all the books I’ve read about the Holocaust, this one gives me the feeling of going deepest into the experience of those who went through it (or didn’t get through it)…. The book is also remarkable for the insight it gives into the way Jewish law comes to grips with the kind of dilemmas they faced. The writing is starkly beautiful.
—Esther Cameron, author of The Time of the Other and editor of The Deronda Review
While the subject matter of Returning makes for heavy reading at times, the writing is superb throughout. Indeed, the telling often has the pace of a thriller as the reader is led through a maze of conflicting memories and complex relationships, until the full truth of Ovadya’s story is revealed.
Since the questions raised by this unique and profoundly moving book are of the deepest kind, Returning is certain to be read, discussed, and argued over for many years to come.
—Libi Astaire, author of The Moon Taker
Well-written and poignant, Returning takes us to the depths of despair, to the lowest point of humanity, and at the same time, gives us a glimpse of a much bigger picture—of the nature of reality, the physical world, and the human soul.
The book is heavy yet uplifting at the same time, as it portrays the indestructible bond between a Jew and his Creator.
—Yehudis Litvak, Learning and Teaching Torah through Literature
The quality of writing in this book is so excellent, both in style and in content as well as in the method of revealing the story (emails, letters, online communications, etc.) that it not only demands our attention but also makes it visually easier to read. Returning is an exploration of the boundaries between right and wrong, choices and choicelessness, and the consequences of crossing those boundaries. It challenges notions of black and white, and calls into question the sovereignty of death itself. Writing of this quality is so infrequently encountered that it seems as though this book is destined for major awards.
— Grady Harp, Amazon Hall of Fame, Top 100 Reviewer.
Links to Educational Materials
Reader’s Guide: Questions for readers to ponder as they progress through the book: https://www.yaelshahar.com/readers/returning-discussion-topics//
- Moral and Religious dilemmas in the Holocaust: Topics for group discussion based on dilemmas raised in the book: https://www.yaelshahar.com/moral-dilemmas-holocaust/.
- Reflections and Resources on T’shuvah: Topis for discussion on T’shuvah, supplemented by Jewish sources that can serve as a basis for deeper learning. https://www.yaelshahar.com/readers/reflections-resources-tshuvah-free-download/
Artwork & Illustrations: Artwork & Illustrations for Returning
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