Discovering Twins – winner of a Literary Titan Book Review and BookView Reviews Award

ter Hart stuns readers with a haunting journey through family secrets in this striking debut. Part memoir and part historical fiction, ter Hart’s account offers an unforgettable mixture of anecdotes, personal memories, genealogy records, and preserved correspondence, all skillfully combined into a moving chronicle of her family’s experience of the Holocaust–a story that, she writes, “must continue to be told to all existing and future generations.” She recounts her parents’ upbringing in Holland during the second World War, as well as their later immigration to Canada, but her focus is on the Jewish family members who were lost–and those left behind.
ter Hart stuns readers with a haunting journey through family secrets in this striking debut. Part memoir and part historical fiction, ter Hart’s account offers an unforgettable mixture of anecdotes, personal memories, genealogy records, and preserved correspondence, all skillfully combined into a moving chronicle of her family’s experience of the Holocaust–a story that, she writes, “must continue to be told to all existing and future generations.” She recounts her parents’ upbringing in Holland during the second World War, as well as their later immigration to Canada, but her focus is on the Jewish family members who were lost–and those left behind.
 
This family tree can be challenging to track, but ter Hart’s conversational style incites readers in and transports them into the center of her family’s experiences. Her stories of “Tante Mina,” an aunt who survived multiple concentration camps after her husband turned her over to the Nazis, is spellbinding, as is the family secret that her grandfather, Giovanni Vittali, hid a fortune’s worth of valuables for Jewish friends and family through his construction company. Equally moving are ter Hart’s personal photographs, such as a reproduction of her grandmother’s star of David and a snapshot of seven-year-old Maurits, a relative who was killed at Sobibor. Throughout the account, ter Hart returns to the family’s tendency to have twins, the genealogical thread that spurred her interest in uncovering her family’s background.
 
While ter Hart never shies away from shocking details (at Auschwitz she notes the “still visible claw marks of human fingernails on the walls of the gas chambers”), she highlights the silver lining of stumbling across her family’s confidences–including finally being able to connect with a distant relative who survived. She leaves readers with the gut-wrenching insight “[h]ow grievous that humans, generally, still seem unable to evolve beyond being the hunter, the hunted, or the watcher,” and anyone intrigued by family histories and uncompromising historical fiction will discover a narrative to remember.

BookLife Review – Publisher’s Weekly

An unforgettable odyssey of family, overflowing with devotion, grief, and resilience.