The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War Book Review

This coming Saturday is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI. It was supposed to be the war that ends all wars and supposed to last only a few months. Instead it last 4 years, killed 9 million soldiers and forever changed the history of the world as we know it.

David Laskin’s 2011, memoir, The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War, chronicles a dozen men, all immigrants from the turn of the 20th century who fought for the Allies in WWI.  The men, whose stories were told represent a vast array of immigrants who sought freedom and shelter in America: Slovaks, Poles, Jews, Irish, Italians and Scandinavians.  These men were not seeking to join the military, they were often escaping required military conscription from the governments whose lands they had left. But they still joined the army, some gave the ultimate sacrifice for their new country.

I loved this book. David Laskin, as he did with The Family , tells the stories of these men as if they were fictional characters, not real human beings. Each man is brought back to life in full color. The details are vivid and rich.  The horrors of WWI are as graphic as any movie camera could reproduce.

I recommend this book.


The Family- Heartbreaking and Powerful

This weekend, I read David Laskin’s novel, The Family.

In short, this is one of the best books I have read in a long time.

Mr. Laskin narrates the tale of his mother’s family, starting with his great-great grand parents, Shimon Dov HaKohen and Beyle Shapiro, who lived in the shtetl of Rakov and the yeshiva center of Volozhin, which is now in Belarus.

Shimon Dov and Beyle have six children and numerous grandchildren, all choosing different paths in life. One branch of the family emigrated to the United States and became successful business owners. Another made Aaliyah to what was then Palestine and became pioneers of modern day Israel. The third stayed in Europe and became part of the martyred six million Jews murdered by the Nazis.

This book could have sounded like a history book or  a boring documentary. But it doesn’t.  Each member of Mr. Laskin’s family has their own voice and their own story to tell. The details are so vivid that one doesn’t have to be Jewish or have roots in Eastern Europe to be caught up in this world.

I couldn’t put it down, the book is nearly 400 pages long, but it doesn’t feel like it is 400 pages. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to read a good book.

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