Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Way Home: A German Childhood, an American Life (by Bill Bradley's ex-wife)

The Way Home: A German Childhood, an American LifeThe Way Home: A German Childhood, an American Life by Ernestine Bradley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was drawn to this book because of my own German background, and also the fact that my parents lived in Bavaria (where Bradley was from) before I was born. I've never actually been to Germany, although I studied German in high school and college.

Bradley perceptively lays out some of the differences in German and American culture, and she clearly struggled with some of the decisions her parents made during her childhood.

Bradley is haunted by her family's possible connections during the war, and decisions made by her fellow Germans. I found it interesting because I too have often wondered about myself what I would have done had I been living in Hitler's Germany. I would hope that I would have been one of those sheltering and helping Jews, but it's hard to imagine living in those desperate, dangerous times.

Bradley was a fiercely independent and strong woman in her youth (she left Germany and became a flight attendant for Pan-Am when she was 21 years old), and dedicated herself to her career and profession so that she could establish her own identity separate from her family.

She described her bout with breast cancer sensitively...the most touching scene in the book was when she was trying on a suit in a department store and explained to the store clerk that she wasn't sure how it would fit because of her prosthesis, and the clerk told her she too was a cancer survivor and had reconstructive surgery done. They went into the dressing room and showed each other their breasts for comparison. This is such a great story about the way that women can rapidly move from strangers to intimacy in a matter of moments.

I did not previously know much about Bill Bradley, but given his support of his wife during her bout with cancer, and the way he raised his daughter, I'm sure he would have been a compassionate and principled president.

WAIT!!! UPDATE!!! I take back that last paragraph. I just read about Bill Bradley on Wikipedia, and I discovered that he left Ernestine in July 2007! I can't find out much more information on the web except that later last year he was frequently seen with a blonde woman who had just divorced her husband. What a disappointment after having just finished the book! So much for being a compassionate and principled president...

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