Ron Balson’s Once We Were Brothers
Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson is an exceptionally readable novel about the enduring horrors of the Holocaust. Skeptical about yet another book about the Holocaust, I approached Once We Were Brothers with trepidation, as I do most fictionalized works about that period in Polish history. Making entertainment out of the most heinous crimes ever perpetrated often strikes me as more of an effort to cash in than to educate. I would call this book a legal suspense novel, yet it is so well written and personalizes the story so effectively that you can hardly wait to turn the page and see what acts of horror or heroism will unfold next. It is also an indication of the author’s writing skill that he chose to set the novel in contemporary Chicago, with the main character telling his story to an attorney. It is probably no coincidence that Balson is a Chicago trial attorney.
Here is a plot summary (with no spoilers) taken from the dust jacket: “Elliot Rosenzweig, a respected civic leader and wealthy philanthropist, is attending a fund-raiser when he is suddenly accosted by Ben Solomon and accused of being a former Nazi SS officer named Otto Piatek…. Although the charges are denouced his accuser is convinced he is right and engages attorney Catherine Lockhart to bring Rosenzweig to justice. Solomin reveals that the true Piatek was abandoned as a child and raised by Solomon’s own family, only to betray them during the Nazi occupation. But has Solomon accused the right man?”
The book includes a reading group guide, as this is an ideal candidate for any book club, Polish or not.