Alexandria, VA – Review: All That Lingers
Author: Irene Wittig
Published: March 2020
Reviewed by: Ralph Peluso, Literary Editor
Zebra Rating – 5 Stripes
In All That Lingers, Irene Wittig demonstrates her strong storyteller skills. This generational work set in Vienna and New York takes readers from the 1930s and pre-WWII Europe, through the war, and on into the early part of Kennedy’s America.
Irene selected the title carefully. It portends situations and people who cross in and out of life’s path, but key memories of them always remain. Emma, the main character, faces love, joys, losses, heartaches, and intense feelings of helpless horror at what Jews endured as Austria and the world changed around them. They were forced to flee, be captured, or hide, with the latter forcing anti-Nazi German supporters to either help the Jews or turn them in and face the consequences for their actions. Emma spends many years in sadness, remembering those she has lost.
All That Lingers has many unique, well-developed characters. Each is essential to understanding Emma’s initial happiness with her life and comfort, and then to the stark contrast thrust upon her by a life unraveling. The diverse perspective and experience give readers a deep look into Viennese society and culture.
The author’s attention to period detail and psychological insight provides history buffs with fuel for debate. Choices have lingering ramifications. Is it so farfetched that the politically powerful, even when on the wrong side of history, remain privileged and comfortable? While the not-so-lucky face the outcome of the turmoil and political upheaval?
Irene Wittig was born in liberated Rome to a Viennese Jewish mother and Italian father. She arrived in the U.S. via Austria and Argentina. Wittig grew up in New York, surrounded by Holocaust survivors and other displaced Europeans. “I drew from their stories and those of my family in writing this book,” she said. “Preservation of family stories is important to understanding the scars of our heritage.” This quasi-autobiographical work is chock full of characters, from warm and loving, to sinister and self-serving.
After studying in New York, Germany, and Maryland, Irene worked for the Dept. of Defense in Washington, D.C. before moving to Naples, Italy, where she lived for five years. Later, she and her husband spent six years in Switzerland. After 20 years as a ceramic painter and teacher, Irene turned to writing. She and her husband have two children and four grandchildren. They live in Arlington, Virginia.
All That Lingers is a moving story of survival. It is a solid read for all, especially fans of historical fiction and WWII stories. Zebra rating: 5 stripes.