Like a Haystack: Life from My Perspective
by Margaret Smolik
Toplink Publishing

"In retrospect, I realize that a hay stack holds a deep significance for me. Layer upon layer of hay makes up a hay stack. It is not the work of one; many workers contribute to its formation like the people and events that shape our lives."

Smolik writes a harrowing and poignant narrative of her life as a refugee in World War II. Her family is in various camps throughout that era, and they ultimately find a new life in America, which begs a new understanding of the “American Dream.” The book is split into two parts. The first takes place during WWII in Yugoslavia and Austria, as the author and her family are shuffled around the continent. The second part, titled “A New World,” starts the family’s new life in America, after a three-week boat ride from Germany to New Orleans.

Smolik's book comes across like a historical geography lesson at times, as the author situates herself and her family among both the “Old World” and the “New World.” The history, the maps, and the time stamps remind readers that this is not just a story about one family at one time but a story about many families throughout that time. She recounts special holidays and traditions, as she weaves in her own narrative. The photos of her family add to the verisimilitude of the tale, and they help to situate her story in the mind of the reader. She even includes the accounts of family members, written in their own words, to supplement her own memories. It is a rarity to read about such a personal account of Hitler-era Europe, and the author’s intriguing story wonderfully weaves the good with the bad, the political with the personal, and the old with the new in a manner that is still uniquely her own.

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