“One Hundred Saturdays” by Michael Frank

Jan 11, 2023 | 0 comments

“One Hundred Saturdays:Stella Levi and the Search for a Lost World” by Michael Frank

I’ve not quite finished Michael Frank’s latest book — three pages to go — but “my eyes say quit” as my grandmother used to say.  And I can’t wait to tell you about it!  Mostly, I just want to say:  “Get it!  Read it!” And by the time you get to these last three pages, you (like I) will probably want to read it again.

But before I tell you about the book, let me first say that Michael is a friend of close to 40 years standing.  He and his brothers and parents came to one of our first Croquet Galas — fundraisers for local non-profits that Nyel and I put on for sixteen years.  I think the Frank family came for the first time in 1986, or maybe 1987– the year Nyel and I were married.  Here.  In the garden.  At the Croquet Gala.

Whichever year it was, I remember Michael (and brothers) objecting to the Rules of Play.  “They aren’t the official rules,” they said.  And I remember Patty Thomas saying, “Their fundraiser.  Their rules.” And that was that — although we knew from that beginning that nothing Michael (or his brothers) did was ever without questioning, examining, investigating.  And it was the beginning of a long-distance (Michael and family divide their time between New York City and Camogli, Italy) and long-treasured friendship.

Michael Frank

“One Hundred Saturdays: Stella Levi and the Search for a Lost World” is based on years (six? seven?) of Michael’s Saturday visits with ninety-nine (perhaps now one hundred) year- old Stella Levi, one of the last survivors of the Auschwitz death camps of World War Two.  Saturday after Saturday, Michael and she talked, beginning when she was ‘only’ 92.  He asked gently, cleverly, insistently the questions that lead to her story of growing up in the Jewish community on the island of Rhodes — a community that had been there, in that place for generations — all the way back to the fifteenth century.  On July 23, 1944 the entire community — 1,650 human beings — were herded aboard a ship and headed toward their death.  Only ten percent survived. Stella was one of them.

I found myself rushing through Michael’s questions and Stella’s answers. And then stopping for a while to think… I knew from the beginning that I would read the book again.  And perhaps again after that.  Stella is only thirteen years older than I but…  I can’t begin to explain how I perceive her.

I urge you to read the book.  Let me know what you think.  And for the record:  “One Hundred Saturdays” has been named one of the Wall Street Journal’s “Ten Best Books of the Year” and is the recipient of the Jewish Book Council’s Natan Notable Book Award.

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