I admit to being a sucker for anything with a subtitle like, “Love, War, and a Ruined House in France.” Just that little peek at Miranda Richmond Mouillot’s memoir “A Fifty Year Silence” was enough to draw me in. Fortunately, the story itself was just as gripping as the cover would suggest.
Mouillot's grandparents met before World War II and survived the Holocaust before marrying and starting a family. Then, abruptly, they parted ways never to speak again. Mouillot, their only granddaughter, is close with both of them, albeit in differing ways. Her grandmother, a lively and spirited woman who Mouillot clearly admires a great deal, reads like an easy person to love. But her grandfather, with his strict manners and often harsh interactions, required more time to become sympathetic. But Mouillot is fascinated by the story of their love and eventual estrangement, and becomes absorbed by the idea of retracing their story through sparse records and their own fading memories.
Jumping back and forth in time, Mouillot meticulously explores the relationship between her grandparents, and the way they related to their experiences during World War II. At the same time, she almost by accident builds her own life, coincidentally in the small French town in which her grandparents owned an abandoned house. It’s a complex story, weaving the relationship she has with her grandparents, their volatile estrangement, and a sly love story her own.
The result is a gentle and subtly moving work that builds to a smooth but touching resolution. Mouillot's writing is lyrical and powerful, turning phrases in a way that tears at your heart and brings love to life. "A Fifty-Year Silence" is a must read!
Bridey is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C.
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