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Send for Me


Send for Me

SEND FOR ME begins with a letter from the author: “Children of immigrants are anthropologists of our own families. We’re participant-observers of cultures we live in, but that will never quite belong to us.” This idea is particularly prescient because Lauren Fox’s desire to know her ancestors and feel close to those who came before her is the driving force of the novel.

Among her late grandmother’s possessions, Fox found letters dating from 1938 to 1941. They track correspondence between her grandmother, a German-Jewish refugee living in Milwaukee, and her great-grandmother, who remained behind in Germany and tried desperately to get out. Fox created the story by weaving together what she knows about her family with what she learned in these letters and filling in the gaps with her imagination.

SEND FOR ME is an intergenerational story about the love and pain passed down among women of four generations, holding close to one another during times of unimaginable fear and grief. The novel is centered on Annelise, a young woman living in Feldenheim, Germany, with her loving parents, Klara and Julius. The warmth and sweetness that is formed in Annelise’s family’s bakery permeates through Fox’s prose and the gentle way the characters show their love for one another.

"Fox masterfully weaves together the stories of how the Holocaust impacted multiple people of different ages and social classes, as well as its lasting effect across generations."

We see Annelise grow up, experience her first love and suffer the deep sorrow of heartbreak. She finds new love, gets married and has a child. Her family life is filled with comfort and simple delight. When Annelise gives birth to Ruthie, her relationship with her own mother further deepens. Ruthie becomes the new center of the family’s orbit, and they bond through their desire to care for her.

Klara’s letters to Annelise add to the slow-brewing terror that Jewish people experienced living in Germany in the years leading up to the Holocaust. Piece by piece, Feldenheim becomes unlivable for Annelise and her family. People stop coming to their bakery. They are banned from eating in restaurants and are refused services at certain shops. Friends tell them they cannot see one another anymore. Bricks crash through their window and dent their kitchen table. Neighbors start flying the Nazi flag and glaring at them in the streets. The short four-block walk between Annelise’s and her parents’ apartment becomes treacherous. Annelise and her family watch their world shrink before their eyes as they try their best to adapt to their ever-changing lives.

The novel is expansive, and it has the bandwidth to hold love and warmth amidst terror. Fox masterfully weaves together the stories of how the Holocaust impacted multiple people of different ages and social classes, as well as its lasting effect across generations. In the modern storyline that follows Annelise’s granddaughter, Clare, Fox deals with transgenerational trauma. Clare is a grown woman who can’t seem to grasp why moving away from one’s parents is so simple for others yet so impossible for her. Why can she not fly to London for a weekend without crying about missing her mother? She feels a connection to her grandmother and reflects on the periods of depression she has lived through, wondering if she somehow inherited Annelise’s sadness.

Above all, as Fox states many times, SEND FOR ME is a love story. The push-and-pull style of love between parents and their children is what binds Fox’s characters and allows the reader to pass fluidly between the different generations of the family, spotting so easily how they have been shaped by those who lived before them.

The separation of family is the most painful element of the novel. Fox uses her great-grandmother’s letters to give insight into Klara and Julius, who were left behind in Germany. Their communication is brief. They are tired, and it is clear that they cannot bear to relive their experiences by writing about them. Often just a single sentence interspersed between chapters, the excerpts from the letters carry enough emotion to fill pages.

The negative space of her great-grandmother’s words carries the burden of worry about what will happen to them. Instead of the rising tide of anti-Semitism and fascism, they focus on concrete matters: I’ve sent the last of your things. Have you heard anything about the affidavits? Will you write to immigration services again? How big has Ruthie grown? Does she remember us? Please do everything you can to get our visas through. Since reading the book, I haven’t been able to stop dwelling on how many lives have been lost because of the slow-moving bureaucracy of immigration.

SEND FOR ME is a beautifully written novel about the strength of familial bonds at a time when the world is trying to alienate people and pull them apart from one another. I urge you to pick up this book and allow yourself to get lost in it.

Reviewed by Julianne Holmquist on February 26, 2021

Send for Me
by Lauren Fox