Among the Living and the Dead
“It’s long been assumed of the region where my grandmother was born… that at some point each year the dead will come home,” Inara Verzemnieks writes in this exquisite story of war, exile and homecoming.
Her grandmother’s stories recalled the family farm left behind in Latvia, where, during WWII, her grandmother Livija and her grandmother’s sister, Ausma, were separated. They would not see each other again for more than 50 years. Raised by her grandparents in the USA, Inara grew up among expatriates, scattering smuggled Latvian sand over the coffins of the dead, singing folk songs about a land she had never visited.
When Inara discovers the scarf Livija wore when she left home, this tangible remnant of the past points the way back to the remote village where her family broke apart. Coming to know Ausma and the trauma of her exile to Siberia under Stalin, and her grandfather’s own complex history, Inara pieces together Livija’s survival through the years as a refugee. Weaving these two parts of the family story together in spellbinding, lyrical prose, she gives us a profound and cathartic account of loss, survival, resilience and love.
A powerfully told memoir of family, separation, and the things left unsaid, in the wake of the Second World War.