A woman washes ashore in Sicily. She has come from North Africa to find her son, taken from her when he was just days old by his father and stolen away to Berlin. With nothing but her maid’s uniform and a knife stashed in a plastic bag, she relies on strangers – some generous, some exploiting – to guide her passage north. These strangers tell of their encounters with a quiet, mysterious woman in a blue coat – each account a different view of the truth, a different truth. And slowly these fragments of a life piece together to create a spellbinding story of the courage of a mother and the versions of truth we create to accommodate our lives. Haunting and beautiful, Hand Me Down World is simply unforgettable.
A print reader reviewed this book for Amazon to say it's violent and depressing. I strongly disagree and could not wait to share that opinion here. This is Literature, an interesting and worthwhile story told in a whole new way. That fact plus the fact of Humphrey Bower's narration and you have a multi-star listen.
It is not a comfortable listen. You worry about the heroine, where she will sleep that night and when she will eat again and if she is warm enough. Briefly, a handsome and smooth-talking black man, son of a black American soldier and a German mother, stays at a resort hotel in Tunis. He befriends a little black maid big-time. Then he deceives her and leaves with the baby when the baby is only a few days old. She eventually follows him doggedly. To Berlin. At many points in the story I want to tell this poor lady to get legal help -- the guy is a jerk! -- take him to court! How many agencies are just waiting to help women of color, single mothers, etc. etc. But she will work it out in her own way. Thus, Mr. Bower takes the voice of everyone this lady interacts with as the story unfolds. Mr. Bower uses his own voice for just a little while as a flat-mate from New Zealand. Otherwise, he is Italian, Croatian, elderly German, French, and two different African women! Wonderful! Please don't be in a hurry to see what happens. Just enjoy the trip because many truths come out as the characters visit the zoo, go for coffee, sleep on the train and discuss their interests. I will listen another time to get more of these truths because as you hear each character's version of the story, you gain new understanding. The ending is gentle and hopeful. Not violent at all. Some of the characters need a bath or their teeth fixed, but they are all doing the best they know. There is a lot of love in this book! Many kinds of love and caring.
I was stationed in Germany many years ago. I did not get to Berlin. As the heroine traveled north, I thought about how most of us visit those places on vacation. We would be marveling at the landscape. But she is hardly on vacation! I enjoyed being updated by modern touches to be found in a European city these days. I enjoyed references to Kaufhof and Wertheim, and even the landmarks of a Berlin I have not seen. Tiergarten, Ku'damm, Unter den Linden . . . Give it a listen!
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
The story is interesting if not spectacular, but the reader is so good, you really feel the story. Worth it for sure.
OK, maybe if you were in prison... Otherwise, you've got to be a very boring person to like this slow, predictable, uninteresting story.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful