>On my way back from visiting my sister in Iowa, I read two books: On Writing by Stephen King (excellent - both entertaining and helpful) and The Lost by Daniel Mendelsohn. The Lost is about Mendelsohn's family history and his obsession with learning what happened to his grandfather's brother and his family during the Holocaust. Unfortunately, it is also about historical, current, and personal interpretations of the Five Books of Moses, and semi-related sibling rivalry stories. Also, the style includes a lot of repetition in storytelling after a tangent (just like listening to someone tell a story with lots of tangents) and dramatic foreshadowing (i.e. - "But I couldn't have know what would happen next.") I felt like Mendelsohn should have read On Writing.

That said, the core of the story is well written and very compelling to me. Plus, I learned important lessons for my own writing. I love me some tangents, but too many of them are distracting. I also always try to cram semi-related stories into my narratives, but now I see why that doesn't work. If The Lost had been about 100-150 pages shorter, it would have been brilliant. (On the other hand, it won a National Book Critic Circle award, so don't take my word for it.)

Reading stories about the Holocaust always makes me restless. Like Mendelsohn, I want to know what happened to my grandfather's family. When I discovered in 2005 that one of his brothers-in-law actually survived and moved to Israel after the war, it was a breakthrough. But that gentleman died in the early 1980s, and none of his relatives knew anything about my family, although they are lovely people and I am glad that I met them. I've always believed that not knowing what happened to someone is one of the hardest things that people deal with. The human mind craves closure.

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