Noth­ing is Forgotten

  • Review
By – February 4, 2019

This fast-paced and well-researched work of his­tor­i­cal fic­tion focus­es on a Amer­i­can teenag­er, Michael Daniels, raised in New Jer­sey by his lov­ing, Russ­ian Jew­ish grand­moth­er, Emma. Emma doesn’t reveal much about her back­ground, but Michael knows that she’s hard­work­ing and reli­able — and that she trav­els alone to Europe each year, return­ing with extrav­a­gant gifts.

While the wider world feels the effects of the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis and the Cold War, Michael’s own life in sub­ur­bia seems pre­dictable and dull. Crav­ing excite­ment, he starts work­ing as a night­time radio rock-and-roll DJ, adopt­ing the per­sona of The Mad Russ­ian,” an out­landish spoof on Sovi­et leader Niki­ta Khrushchev. Michael does­n’t real­ize he has an under­ground fol­low­ing in the moth­er­land, includ­ing the small town of Otvali.

When Emma is mur­dered, Michael’s Amer­i­can life col­lides with his Russ­ian roots. Des­per­ate­ly try­ing to solve the mys­tery of his grandmother’s death, he is sent by her friends to Munich to work for Taft Mif­flin — a pos­si­ble spy and the man­ag­er of Four Free­doms Radio, which broad­casts to the Sovi­et Union. In Ger­many, Michael attends the ded­i­ca­tion of Dachau con­cen­tra­tion camp as a war memo­r­i­al” and is shocked. Naive­ly, he pub­licly ques­tions Ger­mans’ reluc­tance to acknowl­edge the Holocaust.

Michael is endan­gered, and hides in Rus­sia under the pro­tec­tion of Der Schmug­gler, the fos­ter father of beau­ti­ful Yuli Kosoy, a Holo­caust orphan (and an orig­i­nal fan of The Mad Russ­ian”). Yuli assists her fos­ter father in smug­gling Amer­i­can goods into the USSR. Her lone­li­ness mir­rors Michael’s, and the two even­tu­al­ly team up in search of Emma’s murderer.

Though it’s a chal­lenge at times to keep track of all of the char­ac­ters and the com­plex plot­lines, it’s well worth it to enjoy this spell­bind­ing page-turn­er. Peter Gold­en suc­cess­ful­ly depicts the effects of the Holo­caust on the lives of resource­ful sur­vivors in Rus­sia, France, and the Unit­ed States. The secre­cy main­tained by many sur­vivors — and their heirs’ sub­se­quent igno­rance of their trau­mat­ic his­to­ries — is also explored. Gold­en gives the read­er a unique look at the Cold War era by depict­ing it from both the point of view of Michael, an intel­li­gent but obliv­i­ous Jew­ish Amer­i­can kid, and that of Yuli, a hard-edged Jew­ish teen tough­ing it out in Russia.

This tale is suit­able for any­one inter­est­ed in the post – World War II era. It could also prove quite suc­cess­ful in engag­ing young adults, who will eas­i­ly relate to Michael and Yulia, and be moved by Emma’s sto­ry just as Michael is dur­ing his com­ing-of-age. Though the char­ac­ters may be viewed as some­what car­i­ca­ture-like by the more knowl­edge­able read­er, Golden’s sto­ry­telling is con­sis­tent­ly engag­ing and fresh.

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams is a Cuban-born, Brook­lyn-raised, Long Island-resid­ing mom. She is Hadas­sah Nas­sau’s One Region One Book chair­la­dy, a free­lance essay­ist, and a cer­ti­fied yoga instruc­tor who has loved review­ing books for the JBC for the past ten years.

Discussion Questions