They Were Like Family to Me

By Helen Maryles Shankman,

Book cover of They Were Like Family to Me: Stories

Book description

Finalist for the 2017 Story Prize
Honorable Mention in the 2017 ALA Sophie Brody Medal for achievement in Jewish Literature

“An absolutely dazzling triumph…A singularly inventive collection” (Jewish Book Council) of linked stories set in a German-occupied town in Poland during World War II, where tales of myth and folklore…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked They Were Like Family to Me as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

When I read They Were Like Family to Me (originally titled In the Land of Armadillos), I came to understand how magic realism can be used to illuminate that which ultimately cannot be described—in this case, the horror of human depravity during the Holocaust.

This technique also reflects the inability of the victims to grasp what is happening around them, causing them to escape into a world of fantasy. The novel is comprised of a series of interconnected tales about victims and perpetrators, with each chapter telling a story that is simultaneously realistic and dreamlike. It is utterly unique and…

From Sharon's list on Jewish survival under the Nazis.

This finalist for the Story Prize is one of the most tightly woven, inventive, important collections I've ever read. Shankman draws from personal family history to explore intersecting lives in a Polish village during Nazi occupation. Layered with mystical beings and historical events, somehow she captures, in the midst of the atrocities, the greater reality of our human interconnectedness. Everyone I’ve recommended this book to has thanked me for doing so.

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