The Choice
Lisa Baldez, Professor of Government, and and of Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies; Cheheyl Professor and Director, Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning

I’ve read some terrific books lately — including White Oleander by Janet Fitch, Careers for Women: A Novel by Joanna Scott, and Alice McDermott’s Charming Billy — but the stories that Edith Eva Eger tells in The Choice: Embrace the Possible have stuck with me for months. Eger is a Holocaust survivor who went on to become a psychologist. The book is an intensely personal account of her life before, during and after her imprisonment at Auschwitz. Her telling is so visceral and the horrors she describes so unceasing that at times I had to remind myself that she survived. Among them: Mengele himself summoned her to his office and demanded she dance for him. There is hope in the tiniest of details: hiding potato scraps in her underwear and later roasting them in the kitchen; the sun glinting off a can of sardines that leads to her rescue; M&Ms that an American soldier doled out one by one to keep her alive. Long after the end of the war, Eger has to dig deeper and deeper into her own trauma to heal herself. The insights she gets from her own experiences help her heal veterans with PTSD and survivors of sexual violence, and she weaves their stories into her own. The book is a bracing reminder of the grace that can emerge from our darkest suffering.