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The Family: A Journey Into the Heart of the Twentieth Century Paperback – 2 Sep 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 383 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (2 Sept. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143125893
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143125891
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 2.3 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,116,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

Praise for "The Family: "
"The Family is as rich and poignant as any novel, only all true and impeccably researched."--Erik Larson, "New York Times "bestselling author of "In the Garden of the Beasts"
"A true triumph of historical storytelling.... David Laskin is a magical searcher into the past....His generations of Cohens could be your Johansens, Smiths, Lopezes, Schmidts, O'Houlihans, even my Scottish peasant forebears..... "The Family" will touch you, heart and soul."--Ivan Doig, National Book Award finalist for "This House of Sky"
"I read "The Family" without stopping, except sometimes to weep (and occasionally to chuckle). Through the stories of members of David Laskin's large, dispersing family, history sharpens into individual lives and deaths and losses and becomes personal and vivid and tragic."--Edith Pearlman, National Book Critics Circle Award winner and National Book Award finalist for "Binocular Vision"
"David Laskin's "The Family" is a vivid, utterly compelling exploration of the forces that have shaped modern history. We often view these forces-- capitalism, fascism, mass migration, assimilation, and the like--only from a distance, as vast, impersonal abstractions. But in Laskin's magnificent book we see them in the intimate details of actual lives, deftly followed through a tangle of triumph, accommodation, and often unbearable suffering. An extraordinary achievement."--Stephen Greenblatt, "New York Times" bestselling author of "The Swerve: How the World Became Modern"
"I was utterly entranced by David Laskin's "The Family." Tracing three strands of his fascinating ancestry, Laskin takes us on an epic journey deep into the heart and soul of the twentieth century. The story is haunting, heartfelt, and deeply moving. And in the end--as Laskin eloquently points out in a beautiful, almost mystical, epilogue--his telling of it weaves another bright silver thread into the fabric that binds all of us together."--Daniel James Brown, author of "The Boys in the Boat"
"'Fate and chance and character make and break every generation, '" David Laskin tells us in this
personal, highly moving history of his family. At once heartbreaking and gloriously triumphant, it's finally a story of love. Yes, a big unyielding, often rollicking and humorous history of one generation's prevailing love for the next. A wonderful achievement. "--Philip Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Failure"
"David Laskin's "The Family" is an elegantly evocative meditation on the Jewish diaspora of the twentieth century. Deeply emotional at times, "The Family "is both harrowing and uplifting. Highly recommended!"--Douglas Brinkley, author of "Cronkite."
"What a story! Scholars and scribes, Zionists and revolutionaries, Holocaust martyrs and the inventors of the Maidenform bra all march through these pages. "The Family "is the twentieth-century history of the Jews writ small."--Jonathan D. Sarna, Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University
"A banquet of Jewish history, as lived by one exceptional American family, across four generations and on three continents, the worst things endured and the best things relished."--Edward Ball, author of "Slaves in the Family"
"Beautifully written, densely textured and at times heartbreaking."--"The Seattle Times"
"A fantastic book...This is a great, big-hearted book about how time and place modifies family, whatever or wherever its roots."--"Amazon"
"A metaphor of sorts for the 20th century, one in which incredible good fortune was granted to some and incomprehensible agony to others....No matter how many times the tale is told, it demands to be read."--Jonathan Yardley, "The Washington Post"
"Laskin's chronicle could have been written in tears...at once anguishing and inspiring.""--""The Wall Street Journal"
"[Laskin] make[s] history intimate by telling it through the eyes of ordinary people....Reads like a historical novel."--"St. Louis Post-Dispatch"
"[David Laskin] urges us to see the workings of history not merely as a list of dates, places and events, great men and great ideas, but as a tapestry whose threads include the lives of flesh-and-blood human beings....[He is] a storyteller who has given his own family chronicle all of the depth and detail of a great novel while, at the same time, honoring the truth of their lives."--"The""Jewish Journal "
"[A] saga....[Laskin] assumes the prerogatives of a novelist."--"The Jewish Daily Forward"


Praise for "The Family: "
"The Family is as rich and poignant as any novel, only all true and impeccably researched."--Erik Larson, "New York Times "bestselling author of "In the Garden of the Beasts"
"A true triumph of historical storytelling.... David Laskin is a magical searcher into the past....His generations of Cohens could be your Johansens, Smiths, Lopezes, Schmidts, O'Houlihans, even my Scottish peasant forebears..... "The Family" will touch you, heart and soul."--Ivan Doig, National Book Award finalist for "This House of Sky"
"I read "The Family" without stopping, except sometimes to weep (and occasionally to chuckle). Through the stories of members of David Laskin's large, dispersing family, history sharpens into individual lives and deaths and losses and becomes personal and vivid and tragic."--Edith Pearlman, National Book Critics Circle Award winner and National Book Award finalist for "Binocular Vision"
"David Laskin's "The Family" is a vivid, utterly compelling exploration of the forces that have shaped modern history. We often view these forces-- capitalism, fascism, mass migration, assimilation, and the like--only from a distance, as vast, impersonal abstractions. But in Laskin's magnificent book we see them in the intimate details of actual lives, deftly followed through a tangle of triumph, accommodation, and often unbearable suffering. An extraordinary achievement."--Stephen Greenblatt, "New York Times" bestselling author of "The Swerve: How the World Became Modern"
"I was utterly entranced by David Laskin's "The Family." Tracing three strands of his fascinating ancestry, Laskin takes us on an epic journey deep into the heart and soul of the twentieth century. The story is haunting, heartfelt, and deeply moving. And in the end--as Laskin eloquently points out in a beautiful, almost mystical, epilogue--his telling of it weaves another bright silver thread into the fabric that binds all of us together."--Daniel James Brown, author of "The Boys in the Boat"
"'Fate and chance and character make and break every generation, '" David Laskin tells us in this
personal, highly moving history of his family. At once heartbreaking and gloriously triumphant, it's finally a story of love. Yes, a big unyielding, often rollicking and humorous history of one generation's prevailing love for the next. A wonderful achievement. "--Philip Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Failure"
"David Laskin's "The Family" is an elegantly evocative meditation on the Jewish diaspora of the twentieth century. Deeply emotional at times, "The Family "is both harrowing and uplifting. Highly recommended!"--Douglas Brinkley, author of "Cronkite."
"What a story! Scholars and scribes, Zionists and revolutionaries, Holocaust martyrs and the inventors of the Maidenform bra all march through these pages. "The Family "is the twentieth-century history of the Jews writ small."--Jonathan D. Sarna, Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University
"A banquet of Jewish history, as lived by one exceptional American family, across four generations and on three continents, the worst things endured and the best things relished."--Edward Ball, author of "Slaves in the Family"
"Beautifully written, densely textured and at times heartbreaking."--"The Seattle Times"
"A fantastic book...This is a great, big-hearted book about how time and place modifies family, whatever or wherever its roots."--"Amazon"
"A metaphor of sorts for the 20th century, one in which incredible good fortune was granted to some and incomprehensible agony to others....No matter how many times the tale is told, it demands to be read."--Jonathan Yardley, "The Washington Post"
"Laskin's chronicle could have been written in tears...at once anguishing and inspiring.""--The Wall Street Journal"
"[Laskin] make[s] history intimate by telling it through the eyes of ordinary people....Reads like a historical novel."--"St. Louis Post-Dispatch"
"[David Laskin] urges us to see the workings of history not merely as a list of dates, places and events, great men and great ideas, but as a tapestry whose threads include the lives of flesh-and-blood human beings....[He is] a storyteller who has given his own family chronicle all of the depth and detail of a great novel while, at the same time, honoring the truth of their lives."--"The""Jewish Journal "
"[A] saga....[Laskin] assumes the prerogatives of a novelist."--"The Jewish Daily Forward"

Praise for "The Family: "
The Family is as rich and poignant as any novel, only all true and impeccably researched. Erik Larson, "New York Times "bestselling author of "In the Garden of the Beasts"
A true triumph of historical storytelling . David Laskin is a magical searcher into the past .His generations of Cohens could be your Johansens, Smiths, Lopezes, Schmidts, O Houlihans, even my Scottish peasant forebears .. "The Family" will touch you, heart and soul. Ivan Doig, National Book Award finalist for "This House of Sky"
I read "The Family" without stopping, except sometimes to weep (and occasionally to chuckle). Through the stories of members of David Laskin s large, dispersing family, history sharpens into individual lives and deaths and losses and becomes personal and vivid and tragic. Edith Pearlman, National Book Critics Circle Award winner and National Book Award finalist for "Binocular Vision"
David Laskin s "The Family" is a vivid, utterly compelling exploration of the forces that have shaped modern history. We often view these forces capitalism, fascism, mass migration, assimilation, and the like only from a distance, as vast, impersonal abstractions. But in Laskin's magnificent book we see them in the intimate details of actual lives, deftly followed through a tangle of triumph, accommodation, and often unbearable suffering. An extraordinary achievement. Stephen Greenblatt, "New York Times" bestselling author of "The Swerve: How the World Became Modern"
I was utterly entranced by David Laskin s "The Family." Tracing three strands of his fascinating ancestry, Laskin takes us on an epic journey deep into the heart and soul of the twentieth century. The story is haunting, heartfelt, and deeply moving. And in the end as Laskin eloquently points out in a beautiful, almost mystical, epilogue his telling of it weaves another bright silver thread into the fabric that binds all of us together. Daniel James Brown, author of "The Boys in the Boat"
Fate and chance and character make and break every generation, David Laskin tells us in this
personal, highly moving history of his family. At once heartbreaking and gloriously triumphant, it s finally a story of love. Yes, a big unyielding, often rollicking and humorous history of one generation s prevailing love for the next. A wonderful achievement. Philip Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Failure"
"David Laskin's "The Family" is an elegantly evocative meditation on the Jewish diaspora of the twentieth century. Deeply emotional at times, "The Family "is both harrowing and uplifting. Highly recommended!" Douglas Brinkley, author of "Cronkite."
What a story! Scholars and scribes, Zionists and revolutionaries, Holocaust martyrs and the inventors of the Maidenform bra all march through these pages. "The Family "is the twentieth-century history of the Jews writ small. Jonathan D. Sarna, Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University
A banquet of Jewish history, as lived by one exceptional American family, across four generations and on three continents, the worst things endured and the best things relished. Edward Ball, author of "Slaves in the Family"
Beautifully written, densely textured and at times heartbreaking. "The Seattle Times"
"A fantastic book...This is a great, big-hearted book about how time and place modifies family, whatever or wherever its roots." "Amazon"
A metaphor of sorts for the 20th century, one in which incredible good fortune was granted to some and incomprehensible agony to others .No matter how many times the tale is told, it demands to be read. Jonathan Yardley, "The Washington Post"
Laskin s chronicle could have been written in tears at once anguishing and inspiring." The Wall Street Journal"
"[Laskin] make[s] history intimate by telling it through the eyes of ordinary people....Reads like a historical novel." "St. Louis Post-Dispatch"
"[David Laskin] urges us to see the workings of history not merely as a list of dates, places and events, great men and great ideas, but as a tapestry whose threads include the lives of flesh-and-blood human beings .[He is] a storyteller who has given his own family chronicle all of the depth and detail of a great novel while, at the same time, honoring the truth of their lives. "The" "Jewish Journal"
[A] saga .[Laskin] assumes the prerogatives of a novelist. "The Jewish Daily Forward""

Praise for The Family:
The Family is as rich and poignant as any novel, only all true and impeccably researched. Erik Larson, New York Times bestselling author of In the Garden of the Beasts
A true triumph of historical storytelling . David Laskin is a magical searcher into the past .His generations of Cohens could be your Johansens, Smiths, Lopezes, Schmidts, O Houlihans, even my Scottish peasant forebears .. The Family will touch you, heart and soul. Ivan Doig, National Book Award finalist for This House of Sky
I read The Family without stopping, except sometimes to weep (and occasionally to chuckle). Through the stories of members of David Laskin s large, dispersing family, history sharpens into individual lives and deaths and losses and becomes personal and vivid and tragic. Edith Pearlman, National Book Critics Circle Award winner and National Book Award finalist for Binocular Vision
David Laskin s The Family is a vivid, utterly compelling exploration of the forces that have shaped modern history. We often view these forces capitalism, fascism, mass migration, assimilation, and the like only from a distance, as vast, impersonal abstractions. But in Laskin's magnificent book we see them in the intimate details of actual lives, deftly followed through a tangle of triumph, accommodation, and often unbearable suffering. An extraordinary achievement. Stephen Greenblatt, New York Times bestselling author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
I was utterly entranced by David Laskin s The Family. Tracing three strands of his fascinating ancestry, Laskin takes us on an epic journey deep into the heart and soul of the twentieth century. The story is haunting, heartfelt, and deeply moving. And in the end as Laskin eloquently points out in a beautiful, almost mystical, epilogue his telling of it weaves another bright silver thread into the fabric that binds all of us together. Daniel James Brown, author of The Boys in the Boat
Fate and chance and character make and break every generation, David Laskin tells us in this
personal, highly moving history of his family. At once heartbreaking and gloriously triumphant, it s finally a story of love. Yes, a big unyielding, often rollicking and humorous history of one generation s prevailing love for the next. A wonderful achievement. Philip Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Failure
"David Laskin's The Family is an elegantly evocative meditation on the Jewish diaspora of the twentieth century. Deeply emotional at times, The Family is both harrowing and uplifting. Highly recommended!" Douglas Brinkley, author of Cronkite.
What a story! Scholars and scribes, Zionists and revolutionaries, Holocaust martyrs and the inventors of the Maidenform bra all march through these pages. The Family is the twentieth-century history of the Jews writ small. Jonathan D. Sarna, Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University
A banquet of Jewish history, as lived by one exceptional American family, across four generations and on three continents, the worst things endured and the best things relished. Edward Ball, author of Slaves in the Family
Beautifully written, densely textured and at times heartbreaking. The Seattle Times
"A fantastic book...This is a great, big-hearted book about how time and place modifies family, whatever or wherever its roots." Amazon
A metaphor of sorts for the 20th century, one in which incredible good fortune was granted to some and incomprehensible agony to others .No matter how many times the tale is told, it demands to be read. Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
Laskin s chronicle could have been written in tears at once anguishing and inspiring. The Wall Street Journal
"[Laskin] make[s] history intimate by telling it through the eyes of ordinary people....Reads like a historical novel." St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"[David Laskin] urges us to see the workings of history not merely as a list of dates, places and events, great men and great ideas, but as a tapestry whose threads include the lives of flesh-and-blood human beings .[He is] a storyteller who has given his own family chronicle all of the depth and detail of a great novel while, at the same time, honoring the truth of their lives. The Jewish Journal
[A] saga .[Laskin] assumes the prerogatives of a novelist. The Jewish Daily Forward"

About the Author

David Laskin is the author of The Children s Blizzard, which won the Washington State Book Award and Midwest Booksellers Choice Award for nonfiction. The author of several other works of nonfiction, Laskin writes for The New York Times and The Washington Post. He and his wife, the parents of three grown daughters, live in Seattle."

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Format: Hardcover
How does a family survive and grow in the midst of bad times? If members are struck down by cudgels, fire, poison gas, and guns can the family tree continue to blossom? Author David Laskin, in his new book, "The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century", takes a family - his own extended one - from the shtetels of what is today's Belarus to the United States and Israel. But "three" journeys? That third "journey" ended in the killing pits at Ponar and the ghetto at Vilna and a fire pit at Klooga in Estonia.

David Laskin's family on his mother's side began in the shtetel of Rakov and the yeshiva center of Volozhin, both in current-day Belarus. Their family name was Kagan or Kaganovich, which is a derivative of the priestly name of "Cohen". Many of the men were scholars and torah scribes and the women either kept the house or made the coin. Hard times in then-Russia - pogroms and government suppression and economic failures - made the idea of emigrating to "der Goldene Medina" - the United States - a very attractive one. Several members of the family went to New York City in the early 1900's. Hard work and luck turned their lives into increasingly prosperous ones. By the 1920's one branch of the US family had found success in the wholesale metals business, which the other branch became "Maidenform", an early creator of bras and girdles. Remember the old ads, "I dreamed I rode a merry-go-round in my Maidenform bra" or some-such? Well, they were the creation of Itel Kagan Rosenthal who was a fiery socialist back in Rakov til she became a sterling capitalist here in the US.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars 183 reviews
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful tale of a family's survival... 19 Oct. 2013
By Jill Meyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
How does a family survive and grow in the midst of bad times? If members are struck down by cudgels, fire, poison gas, and guns can the family tree continue to blossom? Author David Laskin, in his new book, "The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century", takes a family - his own extended one - from the shtetels of what is today's Belarus to the United States and Israel. But "three" journeys? That third "journey" ended in the killing pits at Ponar and the ghetto at Vilna and a fire pit at Klooga in Estonia.

David Laskin's family on his mother's side began in the shtetel of Rakov and the yeshiva center of Volozhin, both in current-day Belarus. Their family name was Kagan or Kaganovich, which is a derivative of the priestly name of "Cohen". Many of the men were scholars and torah scribes and the women either kept the house or made the coin. Hard times in then-Russia - pogroms and government suppression and economic failures - made the idea of emigrating to "der Goldene Medina" - the United States - a very attractive one. Several members of the family went to New York City in the early 1900's. Hard work and luck turned their lives into increasingly prosperous ones. By the 1920's one branch of the US family had found success in the wholesale metals business, which the other branch became "Maidenform", an early creator of bras and girdles. Remember the old ads, "I dreamed I rode a merry-go-round in my Maidenform bra" or some-such? Well, they were the creation of Itel Kagan Rosenthal who was a fiery socialist back in Rakov til she became a sterling capitalist here in the US. But with assimilation also came a lessening of the faith - the Orthodox Jewish faith that kept the family together back in Russia - and the US branch of the family became less and less religiously observant as the generations passed along.

Other members of the Rakov family emigrated to Palestine in the same time, after years of Zionist fervor back in Russia. Most worked the land and founded developments and, eventually, one grandson died in defense of Israel in the 1973 war. The family prospered in Israel and that branch of the tree grew strong. But it was the final branch, that of those family members who stayed in Poland in the darkening days of the 1930's into the years of final destruction in the early 1940's as the Germans invaded what was then Poland (the borders had changed after WW1) and killed the 15 or so members of the family unable to escape to...anywhere "safe".

And that part of the story - the prosperous American branch of the family unable to help those left behind in Rakov and Vilna - is one of the most interesting. Unable to help...or unwilling? Or simply unknowing about the increasingly horrifying conditions of Jews in that widely disputed area between Germany and the Soviet Union? Those left behind sent letters to loved ones abroad asking for help in emigrating but while money was sent by the American branch, little or no real help was given to their trapped family members. All met death in the German occupation of the area, after being confined to ghettos or sent to work camps and concentration camps.

David Laskin brings the book up-to-date after WW2. Family members who had separated in the early 1900's managed to find each other and relationships were established by both branches who survived - those in Israel and the United States. His book is an epic journey - both physically and religiously - of a family who survived through the horrors of war.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Astounding Book 25 Nov. 2013
By West Palm Tennis Bum - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This meticulously researched and beautifully written book chronicles an amazing family whose experience spans the history of the 20th century. It reads like a novel and I got so drawn into it that I had to keep reminding myself that this was all true. It is an epic story of triumph and tragedy that anyone could relate to and enjoy.

The story is of a Russian Jewish family but, as another reviewer said, you don't have to be Jewish to love this book. It makes me want to read other family histories from other religious backgrounds and from other countries. I just hope they will be as well written as this one.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing work 7 Jan. 2014
By barry - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well researched and well told. I felt as though I was reading about the missing details of my own family that had gone through many similar experiences - including a grandmother who picked up and left Poland for Palestine as a teen in the 1930s, relatives who did not make it out of europe bef WWII as well as ancestors who arrived in the US from Russia as children in the first decade of the twentieth century.

the writer did an excellent job researching the historical details of Volozhin, Rakov and Vilna and incorporated those details into the story.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Family, 3 Stories...the future is hard to predict 13 Jan. 2015
By Rubenstein Roy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great Book !
David Laskin's family history is the history of the the families of Israel. There is hardly a family in Israel (of European descent), that doesn't have a similar family story. But Laskin has done the research and the work, using all his writing skills to weave it all together in gripping narrative. David has given us the "big picture" from the bottom up, and shown us how choices matter. He has shown how families grow and multiply and how individuals lives are affected by their decisions, big time! This is a book about people, lots of them, all from similar backgrounds who lead lives totally different, one from the other. If nothing else we see in this book how our destiny really is in our own hands. Too late, those who remained in Poland discovered, their bitter fate. Yogi Berra is said to have said, "the future is hard to predict." This book justifies Yogi's wisdom.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A story that needs to be told. 26 Feb. 2015
By Mirielle - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A tragic story of a Jewish family caught in the horrors of discrimination and the Holocaust. At times, the writing is very heavy and the members of the family become confusing as the author moves back and forth among different branches in Europe, in the US and in Palestine. Much of the story is assumption as the family in Europe disappears into the maw of the Shoah. What was very effective was the growing feeling of desperation and the horrible realization that the European family was trapped without any chance of rescue as the rest of the world stood by. We need to be reminded not only of the suffering of those abandoned to their fates in Europe, but the shared guilt of those who did nothing. As genocide re-emerges as the political weapon of despotic regimes and terrorist organizations all over the world, we must take a stand for justice.
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