Book Review | ‘The Lost Family’ an Examination of Grief and Ghosts


The Lost Family

Jenna Blum

$27.99, hardcover


There are innumerable ways people handle grief.

Whether they move on — and how — is sometimes lost in the fold.

The Lost Family seeks to delve into that process of moving on after a tragedy through Peter Rashkin, a handsome restaurateur in New York City with a tragic past. When the book opens, Peter is in his 40s and owns one of the city’s most popular restaurants, Masha’s, with regular guests such as Walter Cronkite (who has a burger named in his honor with a very specific side dish of “No Vegetables At All”).

Soon, we learn the restaurant is named for his late wife, Masha, who died in Auschwitz with their young twin daughters. Peter survived.

He is content to hide his grief by remaining busy in the kitchen and maintaining a routine until he meets June Bouquet, a beautiful young model who comes by Masha’s one night.

The two begin a passionate love affair, despite their age difference, and create a family of their own after an unexpected pregnancy.

Peter believes this is his chance to start anew, which, while a notion punctuated by hope and optimism, also places an intangible and heavy burden on June.

The novel spans three decades, from the ’60s to the ’80s, through the perspectives of Peter, June and their daughter, Elsbeth. Through these characters, the book’s title takes on new meaning. These Rashkins, too, are lost. Peter’s residual guilt for surviving, while his wife and children did not, manifests in different ways for his family now, who are very much alive.

June struggles to preserve her own lost dreams and youth and entertain a burgeoning feminist ideology in a new era, all the while learning she cannot compete with the ghosts of Peter’s past.

Elsbeth strives to become her own person while acutely sensitive to her parents’ pain, particularly  that of her father, whose past she learns in bits and pieces. He is reluctant to talk about it.

It’s a gripping and deeply empathetic look at the winding trail of loss and how its pieces are never fully recovered.

In Peter, you feel the other side of war, what happened after it was over and how you move on — if you move on. June and Peter’s love for each other is real, but the aftereffects of the war and Peter’s past are too strong sometimes for both of them, and watching their love story unfold against passion and turbulence is heartwarming and heartbreaking.

With help from equally vibrant supporting characters and subplots, Blum delicately threads a tale of love and loss with deep empathy and compassion for its subjects.


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