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An Inspiring Family Story - an Editorial Review of "Where the Lilacs Bloom Once Again"

Book Blurb:

Friddie, 18, is an ordinary yet rebellious young Jewish woman, living in Bucharest in the 1930s. Born and raised in Romania’s capital, she dreams of living as a “free Romanian woman.”

After calling off her wedding to a young, parentally-approved accountant, she escapes to a city on the coast, where she meets a scientist-perfumer named Freddy. He is the true love she has been looking for—and a ticket to her dream.

Soon, though, that dream turns into a nightmare she never could have predicted.

Friddie’s story of incredible hardship is interwoven with the stories of her family. We follow her Aunt Rosa’s life as the glue of her household, even though she loses her husband in mysterious circumstances; her Uncle David, who dreams of becoming a schoolteacher and starting a family in Iași, and her cousins, who uproot their lives in Bucharest to start again in Israel.

In this tragic-heroic novel, the true stories, the victims, and the small moments of happiness are revealed in the Danube’s labor camps, under the fascist-dictatorial and communist rule that has been a part of Romania for so many years.

Based on the true experiences of a Jewish Romanian family, Where the Lilacs Bloom Once Again unearths stories that could so easily be lost to the passage of time. This family’s tale has emerged at a critical time, to show the need for compassion and kindness, even in the hardest moments.

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Author Bio:

Roni Rosenthal, PhD, is an award-winning author, the Director of Judaic Studies, and a Hebrew Literature Professor at the University of Maryland.

Born and raised in Israel, she is named after her grandfather Aharon, who passed away eight months before her birth.

Roni believes in communication and empowerment. She believes in giving a voice to those who were unfortunate.

She believes that stories carry greater messages for all of us. "We must give voice to and tell the stories of

those who have been silenced. We must tell, explore, and reveal the truth. No more hiding. No more living in fear.

Although “we are not required to complete the work,” we must take the first steps to start it."

Roni is a frequent speaker at workshops, universities, and schools.

Roni is also the innovator of the Brain-Empowered with Creativity model. She is known for challenging and motivating people in becoming creative thinkers. Her goal is to promote original thinking worldwide.

To follow Roni -


Editorial Review:

Where the Lilacs Bloom Once Again is a heart wrenching tale of how lives were utterly upended and torn apart during the first and second world wars. The reader follows the lives of Friddie, her aunt Rosa, the Rosenthal family as well as their extended relations. Not one family member is left unscathed from the horrors that were brought upon Jewish families at that time. While their suffering is immense, their resilience is even stronger. Even when slaving away in the death camps, Friddie still manages to think to herself, “There, in the abyss of despair, in those moments when everything seems lost, when hopelessness overwhelmed, where disaster was considered normal, and all hope seemed abandoned… It was there, at that moment, that a small ray of light was revealed.”

The book begins in 1937 Romania with an 18-year-old Friddie living a normal life. She is meant to be getting married to a respectable accountant, Nelu. However, Friddie feels she is too young to get married and wants more out of life. After jilting Nelu at the altar, Friddie falls in love with the mysterious and suave Frederick Karl. Despite her parents, Isaac and Elvira, disapproving of the union, Friddie and Freddy decide to get married. Unfortunately, all goes awry when one day Freddy vanishes into thin air.

A heavily pregnant Friddie is left pining for him. The world is also slipping into war at this point. No one is safe. After receiving a cryptic letter from Freddy, Friddie goes to meet him at the post office. Little does she know that she will not be returning from her trip to the post office for many years to come.

The brutality against Jewish communities was challenging to read at times. Antisemitism was rife, as is made clear by the following quote from the novel, “We were not a small minority in the province of Piatra Neamț, but we felt disdained and unwanted everywhere we went. By the late nineteenth century, we could no longer buy land, even if we could afford it. The town’s public schools tried to prevent Jewish children from enrolling, and a large sign hung above the town’s hospital that read, “No entry for Jews.”” This was all building up to the dreadful massacres, destruction and war crimes that were committed in the years that followed.

Parallel timelines are introduced, whereby readers are taken back in time to the early 1900’s where Friddie’s aunt Rosa was an 18-year-old woman herself. Rosa, her sisters, and her brother face discrimination whereby her brother, David, is brutally attacked, suffering from permanent injuries. Despite his injuries, David pulls through and travels to Iași, a place considered a liberal haven for artists and intellectuals. Unfortunately, it does not remain that way. One of the biggest tragedies, which the author mentions, is how people saw the warning signs but never expected it to become as dangerous as it did. This is evident based on a letter David wrote to his sisters, “It all started the day I was fired. They did not even let me say goodbye to my dear students. I thought it was temporary, because of the war. I thought I would be reunited with my beloved classroom shortly after. Sophie’s sad eyes told me she did not share my hope, but I still prayed for it.”

As we time hop to the labor camps in 1949, readers are left feeling nauseated by the inhumane treatment of the prisoners. The “Danube Canal was nicknamed the “Death Canal” (Canalul morții),” which is where Friddie winds up. At the camp, Friddie meets a fellow prisoner, Mircea. Despite not being able to see one other as they are separated by a wall, they fall in love. One of the most heart-breaking scenes is when Mircea is asking how Friddie came to be in the camp. Her response is, “I married the wrong man, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.” When Friddie returns the question, Mircea responds, “I am the son of a wonderful man, who served the wrong people, at the wrong place, at the wrong time.” The author goes on to say, “In only one sentence, they had summarized their entire lives.” This brief interaction speaks volumes. It is almost incomprehensible how such simple and innocent actions can have such catastrophic consequences. The layers of sadness and desolation are palpable. This is also evidenced by the following passage when Mircea and Friddie were just getting to know one another, “The love story between Friddie and Mircea bloomed like most love stories, except for a couple of crucial details. The brief conversations between the couple took place through the high stone wall, under constant dread of the whistle announcing curfew hours. They could not see the sparks in the other’s eyes while staring at the stone wall. Their only solace was pressing their foreheads against the rough granite, tracing the minerals and pretending to feel the body warmth of the other person.”

Overall, Where the Lilacs Bloom Once Again is a story of ordinary families trying to get by during extraordinarily horrific times. It is a tale of the unsung heroes of the war. It is a story of those who were surrounded by violence, immersed in hatred and submerged in despair and yet, still managed to live. Friddie still managed to find the inner strength to carry on despite the torture and trauma forced upon her. The fact that these stories are based on real people’s lives makes the book all the more heart-breaking. Where the Lilacs Bloom Once Again is a gripping page turner leaving the reader with tears in their eyes and sadness in their hearts. However, the stories and the message behind them is important. We should never forget the past lest we repeat it. Moreover, this story helps to keep the souls of those who passed alive within our collective memories and conscious. Through this book, the author is honouring the memories of those who struggled with unimaginable hardship.

While this must have been a difficult book to write, the author is to be commended for creating such a poignant, riveting, and touching novel, and this reviewer extends the deepest gratitude to the author for sharing her family’s story.


“Where the Lilacs Bloom Once Again” by Roni Rosenthal receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company



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