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Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Winner, Biography and Memoir, 2013

Told with the same old-fashioned narrative power as the novels of Herman Wouk, The Seamstress is the true story of Seren (Sara) Tuvel Bernstein and her survival during wartime. This powerful eyewitness account of survival, told with power and grace, will stay with listeners for years to come.

©1999 Sara Tuvel Bernstein (P)2011 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"There are many recent accounts of Holocaust victims, but this work stands alone as a testimony to personal strength and an independent spirit." ( Library Journal)

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  • Katherine
  • Georgetown, Ontario, Canada
  • 03-10-15

Great book. Hope many more read it!

Obviously, this type of book isn't for everyone, because, even if you're generally interested, it can weigh you down a bit. I devoured it in a short time, but even then, took a few breaks just to lighten my mood. That being said, it isn't horrible in terms of violence or extreme scenes, and overall is uplifting. I really would hope it would get more coverage, because the story and the treatment of it both wonderful. The writer (or writers, more precisely) kept just the right emotional tone, where what has to be dealt with, whatever it is in the story, is being dealt with, just as you would experience it firsthand, if it were you. One forgets that at every stage in the increasing horrors that happened under the Nazis, those experiencing them only dealt with what was in front of their eyes at that moment, with no context that we have now in hindsight. More than most books of this genre, this seems to allow you to feel the moment to moment reality yourself in a way that is very engaging and satisfying. That was part of the message of the book, really, that each relationship we have, each person in themselves, is valuable, which is the essential horror of the holocaust that for that time and for those people, they rejected that concept in such a profound way.

25 of 25 people found this review helpful

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  • Meryl
  • CUMBERLAND CENTER, MAINE, US
  • 05-16-13

Overcome with Emotion

My grandfather had a premonition and fled Germany before the war. My mother was ten when they emigrated to the United States. Our family lost a lot of family and friends.

When I listened to this memoir Wanda McCaddon's voice brought back memories of my grandmother's voice. My grandmother taught me to sew.

This is a truly riveting story of one woman and her family's survival during the Hitler regime. I've read a lot about the war. I have to keep reading about it. It's part of the fabric of my people. This history must be kept alive.

I am a seamstress and sewed the whole time I listened to this audiobook. My latest quilt got wet from all the tears I shed listening to Sara Turvel's story. I'm so glad she had her story finally published.

42 of 44 people found this review helpful

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Slow to start; Hard to Put Down

This book contains some real nice hidden gems. I ordered the paper version when I finished. read it! Your life will be enhanced.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Mary
  • roselle, IL, United States
  • 03-06-12

One of the most moving books...............

An incredible story of a survivor both of the holocaust and post-war Germany. And one of the most moving depictions of how the events unfolded that convinced the Jewish people to pack their valuables peacefully and surrender. There is a point in the book when Sara and her sisters dig in the dirt for tiny grass roots to eat and another where they risk their lives to steal a radish. And, you feel a small glimpse of what it must be like to experience true hunger.... I cried. I was outraged and ultimately uplifted by this one woman's courage to want to live and to do her work.

25 of 27 people found this review helpful

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  • Debbie
  • Toney, Alabama
  • 10-03-14

Romanian Jews and the Holocaust

I gained an education on many levels while listening to this incredible book, one of the most descriptive accounts of life in concentration camps that I have ever read/heard. First of all, I did not know about Romania's involvement in WWII and that it joined with the Axis countries in the war (Germany, Japan, Italy). The persecution of the Jewish people began long before the war as young Seren and her siblings were routinely called "dirty jews" by their school mates, and it was ignored and accepted by her parents, who felt blissfully safe in Romania . . . even as the years, months and days grew near to the German invasion. I also first learned about the Hungarian invasion of Romania (near the border in Transylvania) from listening to The Seamstress. I was stunned to learn that part of Romania was split off from the rest and actually was reclaimed by Hungary, as Seren had to flee from Bucharest to her home near Transylvania, only to find it was surrounded by border guards. She got in. That was Seren. DETERMINED. She took the skills she had learned as a seamstress in Bucharest with her to Budapest, Hungary, where her blue eyes and light colored hair did not automatically mark her as a Jew. I never knew that Hungary was an Axis nation either until I listened to this book. Following Seren's journey from Romania to Hungary and then to Auschwitz in Germany, I was totally engrossed in her story. In telling it to her daughter-in-law, her biggest regret was the waste of all those years . . . not anger or bitterness . . . but what she could have done with her life if she'd had those years back. Oh, but what she DID for her sister, her future family, herself and for all humanity in surviving and LIVING through one of the darkest times in history.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

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Thankfully a happy ending to the nightmare

Would you consider the audio edition of The Seamstress to be better than the print version?

yes, because the narrator was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful and she could read it better to me than I could ever read it to myself!

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Seamstress?

I guess it would be the end of the war right before the rescue

What does Wanda McCaddon bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

her great voice and enthusiasm and expression
she gives the main character a personality and spunk

Any additional comments?

This book was published after the author died and I just wish she knew how many peoples lives she has touched with her writing. She had so much hope and endurance and positive attitude in the middle of a nightmare. She also went on and didn't dwell on her nightmare. She actually had a good life afterwards.

29 of 33 people found this review helpful

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  • Kathy
  • Davis, CA, United States
  • 08-14-13

Seren Tuval, you are my hero!

The holocaust period certainly brought out the very worst in very many people. However, it also brought out the very best in others, Seren Tuval, in particular. What made this story so listenable and wonderful was Seren's personality. She exhibited such strength, such compassion, such intelligence, and such hope. There was never any question in her mind that she might not survive. There was never a moment that she felt sorry for herself. Her optimism and strength is something for us all to emulate or aspire toward.

The narrator is simply amazing and actually became Seren in my mind. I can't imagine anyone doing a better job of a narration. She nailed it perfectly.

This is a very intense story. Yet, you can come away from it with a good feeling. I am not sure how that can be, but it is true. Don't be afraid to read another holocaust story. This one is very special. For myself, I will remember this book for a long time. I am so glad I got to know Seren's story!

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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Love and survival in equal measure

What made the experience of listening to The Seamstress the most enjoyable?

Wanda McCaddon. I agree with other readers. This is the best account of life in the camps I have read. Whether it was the fact that it was from a female perspective or that love features so heavily in Sara's tale, I don't know whether it would have touched me quite as much if I had read it or it'd had another narrator. When ever I started listening, I became lost in the story, and I find that happens with all of Wanda's narrations.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Seamstress?

The behaviour of the Auschwitz survivors in the hospital after liberation. It brought home how ferociously these human beings had had to fight for their own survival. How long did it take for them to trust other human beings again?

Have you listened to any of Wanda McCaddon’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Yes. The usual fabulousness.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Not laugh nor cry but certainly sadness and relief.

Any additional comments?

I started listening again as soon as I'd finished it.

16 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Marie
  • Arlington, TN, United States
  • 09-21-14

Wanted to read this book non-stop

What made the experience of listening to The Seamstress the most enjoyable?

I love books that are written in first person. Not long after you start listening you feel one with the author. The simplicity and matter of fact analysis of the author's account seem simple at first, yet are very rich and profound, once you think about them.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Seamstress?

There was no particular moment I would pick, but the way Sara handled and acted in different situations was remarkable, somewhat unexpected, witty and shaped and saved some of the lives of those that met her.

Which scene was your favorite?

Reunion

Any additional comments?

I got this book on sale, but it's worth a credit. Yes, it is a Holocaust story, but what I liked most about it was that Sara did not seem bitter and hateful. She ended up being the master of her destiny - in a worldly sense.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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captivating

When someone recounts something so horrific, I often find myself wanting to understand what it felt like to be in a situation I could not possibly comprehend. Even tough this was an emotional topic, this book was not about the author's emotion. It was a narrative that focused on the facts. Rather than taking away from the story, it allowed the facts to stand by themselves. IMO, most readers would be hard-pressed to listen to the matter-of-fact experiences and not feel complete shock. The juxtaposition between the lack of the emotion and extreme circumstances was unbelievably powerful. I have read many books and watched so many movies about Holocaust survivors. They have all been shocking. They have all left me with a feeling of confusion and awe at the depth to which some people will go to attain utter control and domination.

This book stood out- mainly for its lack of emotion. Viktor Frankl's Man's Search For Meaning stood out because it was a portrait of remarkable human resilience in the face of circumstances so horrific, those who have not experienced them can barely imagine being able to remain alive, let alone resilient. Frankl showed his reader a curious phenomenon; trauma can compel a person to actually reach beyond what they would have likely achieved in their lifetime otherwise. Instead of breaking, they not only recovered, but thrived.

In a similar way, this narrative stood out. It made me ask the question, "What does it take to survive something like a Holocaust?" This would be a good time to mention that I had a bit of an issue with the forward. Sara's cowriter said something along the lines of, Sara survived because she was stronger than other women who allowed themselves (in some way) to die. I certainly agree that it is one kind of strength to be able to shut off parts of yourself, feel distance, and endure. There is no question Sara was so very strong. But, I don't think it is weak to be aware of how horrific a situation is and die from a combination of torture and despair. I don't think it is weak to maybe have already been starving prior to capture and then die sooner because your body had less nutrition from the start (recall Sara ate very well right before capture because she was working for a woman who fed her workers well). It is not weak to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and get shot or hit by a bomb. It is not weak to drink the water and get sick from the water. It's not weak to take the bottom bunk because the top was full and get crushed to death at night. So much of it was luck. So, it seems unfair to characterize any woman or man who died in the camps as weak in some way. That said, it is interesting to try to figure out what factors contribute to extremely resilient individuals.

This book takes the reader from Sara's childhood, in which she begins to understand people's view of Jewish persons, through her capture and time in the camps, and beyond. A must read for anyone interested in the Holocaust.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful