Review: THE GIRL WHO COUNTED NUMBERS by Rosalyn Bernstein

Time for a change in pace. A historical novel that takes you back to Israel in the 1960s and the trial of Adolf Eichmann.

About the Book

Susan Reich has spent her whole childhood in a small neighborhood near New York City, living comfortably with her father. At seventeen, she decides to turn away from the neatly plotted out life ahead of her and confronts her father about taking a gap year. The two are at odds until he proposes a way for them to both get what they want: Susan can postpone college so long as she spends her gap year abroad in Israel searching for her long-lost uncle.

The Girl Who Counted Numbers is the story of an independent, Jewish-American girl who leaves for Israel to solve a family mystery. The hunt for any evidence of her uncle takes her to unexpected places where she must confront parts of the past she never knew. With the infamous Adolf Eichmann trial happening in the backdrop of The Girl Who Counted Numbers, Susan begins unraveling these complex layers of history and is drawn into the tense political climate of a post-Holocaust Israel. As she gets more and more involved in the struggles of her Israeli and Jewish-Moroccan friends, she explores awakening emotions and discovers her own interest in truth, justice, and activism.

The book is available on Amazon.

My Review

Susan in no hurry to start college so her father decides to send her to Israel to try to find out what became of his older brother who remained in Poland after the rest of the family had migrated to New York before World War II.

This novel takes the reader back in time to Israel in the 1960s. A time when refugees from all over the world were establishing their homes here. A very complicated time period. The cultural divide between the Ashkenazi (European) immigrants and the immigrants from non-Ashkenzi (e.g., Moroccan, Egyptian, Yemenite) backgrounds was a real thing. The author does an excellent job conveying the plight of Morrocan Jewish immigrants – the rampant prejudice they faced and their economic plight. At the same time, the book highlights the Eichmann trial and the atrocities inflicted on Europe’s Jewish population. To this American who first visited Israel in 1974, the backdrop rang true. The setting and history were clearly well researched by the author.

Susan’s journey is an interesting one – she learns a lot about Israel, the Jewish people, and herself as she is exposed to both sides of the cultural divide. She is bright, open-minded, and able to identify with the plight of the Morrocans she meets. She is also moved by the holocaust survivors’ testimonies broadcast daily on the radio. Finding information about her uncle’s fate is no easy task. But in the end, the truth is revealed, bit by bit, with more than a few surprises in store.

FTC disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. This has not affected the content of my review.

About the Author

In 1961, author Roslyn Bernstein spent 7 months in Jerusalem. She was present during part of the Adolf Eichmann Trial—often cited as the event that sparked public awareness of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust— and listened to the stories of immigrants and survivors and daydreamed about their meanings. Her trip was a source of inspiration for The Girl Who Counted Numbers. Susan’s story, while fictional, is heavily influenced by real issues of politics, history, and identity that permeated Israel in the aftermath of the Holocaust and even today. The Girl Who Counted Numbers is a nuanced, thrilling tale about discovering a past and confronting one’s identity.