Once We Were Brothers

Once We Were Brothers

by Ronald H. Balson

Judy Stanton (04/07/13): Dale and I are on the same page on this one; not a bad read, but if you compare it to other books on the Holocaust, it just doesn't measure up. Since I was reading it for a book club, I was glad it was a quick read, but it didn't take long to figure out that the lawyer and the PI would finally hook up, the wealthy Nazi would be exposed, and Ben would finally be at peace. While it's nice to have things work out the way you'd like them to, it doesn't make for a compelling read that really makes you think.
Rating: ***

Dale Israel (04/05/13): Sorry Debbie. I can understand why you liked this book so much but I weigh in closer to Jodi on this one. I won't provide a plot summary as everyone else has done an excellent job describing the book. The storyline kept my attention and I was intrigued with the picture the author painted. However, I agree with Gail that the writing was amateurish and trite. Taken for what it is, the book was okay but not great...it was a quick read that was rather predictable but a pleasant way to spend a few hours. I don't regret reading it but would not rave about it. I'd rate it a 3.5 if that was allowed.
Rating: ***+

Gail Reid (04/01/13): Is it a case of mistaken identity when 83-year-old Ben Solomon, a Holocaust survivor, recognizes his tormentor 60 years later in Chicago? The alleged Nazi is no ordinary citizen but a well-respected billionaire Jewish philanthropist named Elliot Rosenzweig.

Ben is certain that Rosenzweig is really Otto Piatek who was raised as his brother in pre-war Poland. Ben's parents took in Otto when his Christian mother returned to her native Germany and they raised him as a son. In fact, the Solomons encouraged Otto to join the Nazi party to help Jews with his inside knowledge. When power corrupts Otto and he rises within the Nazi hierarchy, he steals money and jewels from the Jews he had promised to protect.

Ben tells his story to a corporate lawyer Catherine Lockhardt who is dubious about the claim but eventually won over by Ben's moral assurance and the depths of his family's suffering. The story of the Solomon family's ordeal before and during the war is interspersed with Catherine's investigation which the entire Chicago judicial system feels is preposterous and without merit for a lawsuit.

I thought the story of the Solomon family during the war was justifiably painful to read but overly long. The investigation of the Jewish philanthropist/Nazi, on the other hand, was terrific. I couldn't read the last one hundred pages fast enough!

The author is an attorney and the legal explanations are clearly conveyed. Some of the other literary techniques, used to advance the plot, seemed somehwat amateurish. By combining history, law, and mystery, Ronald Balson has produced a moving novel that will appeal to a great many readers.
Rating: *****

Debbie Weiss (03/07/13): I have to respectfully disagree with Jodi's review of this wonderful book. I totally enjoyed it from the very first page.

Ben Solomon, an elderly Jewish man and a Holocaust survivor currently lives in Chicago though he was originally from Poland. One evening, he publicly accosts a well respected and wealthy man named Elliot Rosenzweig with a gun and accuses him of being a former Nazi SS Officer Otto Pietek. Ben is arrested but is released soon afterwards due to the fact that the gun was not loaded and Mr. Rosenzweig decides not to press charges.

Ben decides to bring Elliot Rosenzweig to court, maintaining that this individual is definitely a former Nazi officer. In fact, when they were children in Poland, Elliot's (Otto's) parents abandoned him and he went to live with Ben's family who treated him as one of their own.

Ben hires Catherine Lockart as his attorney and as she prepares for the trial, Ben proceeds to communicate the story of his life and how his family was affected by the Nazi occupation of Poland. There is a love story involved, with Ben and his soulmate, Hannah. The relationship between attorney and client starts out purely professional at first, but then evolves into a warm and caring one.

The characters are well developed and the story of Ben's life is truly fascinating. There are many Holocaust-related books, but I am always truly amazed how people survived those inhumane times.
Rating: *****

Jodi Roberts (06/10/12): Billed as a legal thriller spanning two time periods, the Holocaust and modern day, this story is of two young men, choices they make as young men and consequences years later. Many have read and reviewed this work quite highly. Unfortunately, I am not among those readers. I found this poorly written and predictable. The characters in contemporary times were one dimensional and unsympathetic. The reader was told everything, leaving the little opportunity for empathy to develop.
Rating: **

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