The Lost Family a novel

by Jenna Blum

Book, 2018



Call number




New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2018


The New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us creates a vivid portrait of marriage, family, and the haunting grief of World War II in this emotionally charged, beautifully rendered story that spans a generation, from the 1960s to the 1980s. In 1965 Manhattan, patrons flock to Masha's to savor its brisket bourguignon and impeccable service and to admire its dashing owner and head chef Peter Rashkin. With his movie-star good looks and tragic past, Peter, a survivor of Auschwitz, is the most eligible bachelor in town. But Peter does not care for the parade of eligible women who come to the restaurant hoping to catch his eye. He has resigned himself to a solitary life. Running Masha's consumes him, as does his terrible guilt over surviving the horrors of the Nazi death camp while his wife, Masha--the restaurant's namesake--and two young daughters perished. Then exquisitely beautiful June Bouquet, an up-and-coming young model, appears at the restaurant, piercing Peter's guard. Though she is twenty years his junior, the two begin a passionate, whirlwind courtship. When June unexpectedly becomes pregnant, Peter proposes, believing that beginning a new family with the woman he loves will allow him to let go of the horror of the past. But over the next twenty years, the indelible sadness of those memories will overshadow Peter, June, and their daughter Elsbeth, transforming them in shocking, heartbreaking, and unexpected ways. Jenna Blum artfully brings to the page a husband devastated by a grief he cannot name, a frustrated wife struggling to compete with a ghost she cannot banish, and a daughter sensitive to the pain of both her own family and another lost before she was born. Spanning three cinematic decades, The Lost Family is a charming, funny, and elegantly bittersweet study of the repercussions of loss and love.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Beamis12
Peter lost everything important to him in the war, in fact he almost lost himself. Finally, after the liberation of the concentration camp he makes it to America, where he becomes a chef and part owner of a well respected restaurant. This is where he first sees June, twenty years his junior, on her
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way to becoming a top model. Her vivacity and innocence attracts Peter, and he soon looks on her as the way to start a new life, a second chance.

The long effects of trauma, loss and grief, strong tentacles that will follow Peter and his new family. June is at times, well truthfully for me many times, a character that is hard to like. Though I admit I did feel sorry for her occasionally, trying to penetrates Peter's reserve, her wanting to have her own life. Their daughter Elsbeth goes through some troubling times, but she was easier for me to understand. The author does a wonderful job painting a picture of the righties punk scene in Manhattan. The avant garde artists, controversial art shows, and a young girl who gets caught up in something she little understands.

A good story, a relateable family and a look into the sixties, seventies and eighties. Quite well done.

ARC from Edelweiss.
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LibraryThing member susan0316
This is a wonderful novel about family and is so well written that it will stay with me long after the last page was read. Peter lost his wife and twin daughters to the concentraton camps in WWII. He has moved to NYC to try to start his life over but is unable to let go of his past and think about
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his future. He marries June, hoping that her youth and love of life will help him learn how to enjoy life. They have a child, Elsbeth, who should bring joy to both parents but they have difficulty letting go of their pasts. Is Peter going to lose his new family, too?

I loved the way the book was set up. The first section 1965 is told from Peter's perspective, the second section, 1975 is told from June's perspective and the last section, 1985 is told from Elsbeth's. Using this technique, we get the deepest thoughts of all three main characters and learn to love them - flaws and all.

This is a wonderful well written book and my first book by Jenna Blum. I need to go back and read her earlier books now.
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LibraryThing member pdebolt
This absorbing novel begins in the 1960s. Peter Rashkin, a German-Jewish man and a concentration camp survivor, is a chef and co-owner of a successful restaurant he has named after his wife, Masha, who didn't survive the Holocaust. She and their 3-year old twin daughters were never seen again after
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being herded by the Nazis during a terror-filled purge. Peter blames himself for their separation, and is plagued by the guilt and loss of his family. He eventually falls in love with, and marries, a much younger woman, June, an internationally-renown model. They have one daughter, Elspeth.

The story is told from the perspectives of Peter, June and Elspeth in separate sections, and revolves around Peter, whose obsession with the past permits him from enjoying the present. The family unit slowly disintegrates with each of the three distancing themselves from the rest with predictably disastrous results and the possibility of unexpected reconciliations. The haunting prose in this novel is evocative of Blum's previous memorable novel, Those Who Save Us.
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LibraryThing member teachlz
Kudos to Jenna Blum , Author of “The Lost Family” for writing an amazing, intriguing, captivating, and poignant novel. The Genres for this novel are Fiction, Women’s Fiction, and touches on significant moments in history. Jenna writes in such a vivid and descriptive way, that is appeals to
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one’ s sense. In her scenes of the food in the restaurant, I feel that I am in the kitchen at one moment, and then sitting in the dining room sampling gourmet food and tasty desserts. The author portrays the physical and emotional qualities of the characters as well.

Jenna describes her colorful cast of characters as complex and complicated. This is a novel of loss and love, dysfunctional family members with problems and a difficult history. The timeline of the story is around 1965 and goes to the past and future, when it pertains to the characters and events. How is it possible to learn from the problems of the past in order to avoid problems in the present and the future?

In 1965, many people go to Masha’s Restaurant for the ambience,the spectacular gourmet food, with special detail to servicing their guests. Peter Rashkin is the gourmet part owner and Chef. He has named this restaurant for his deceased wife, Masha who perished in a Nazi Concentration Camp while he survived the horrors of World War Two. Peter is very handsome, but has little interest in a longtime relationship, until he meets a model, June Bouquet. Will Peter be able to put his past behind him? Peter holds many dark secrets close to his heart, and can’t speak about them.

I appreciate that Jenna tackles some very important issues, such as PTSD, and the horrors of World War Two, and Vietnam and the effects on the people and their families. The importance of family, love and emotional support are discussed as well as loss and love, acceptance, forgiveness and hope.

The issue of food and lack of food is very symbolic. Lack of food during World War Two, and starving people, versus purposely starving oneself to stay thin, and mental disorders as bulimia, and anorexia are mentioned. There is also the gourmet food, cooking and preparation, as well as traditional holidays where food is the main focus.

I loved everything Jenna Blum’s novel and highly recommend this to readers of Fiction. I enjoy novels that makes one think and reflect. I received an ARC for my honest review.
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LibraryThing member GirlWellRead
A special thank you to Edelweiss and Harper for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Blum's latest generational work spans from the 1960s to the 1980s. Her beautiful prose is juxtaposed against culinary delights (trust me, her descriptions of food will make you want to throw a dinner party).

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1965 Manhattan, Masha's is the talk of the town—not only because its exquisite faire and impeccable service, but because of the movie-star handsome owner and head chef, Peter Rashkin. Peter is a survivor of Auschwitz, his wife (the restaurant's namesake) and two young daughters perished and he has resigned himself to a solitary life, even with all of the attention he attracts from the women who flock to the restaurant in hopes of snagging the city's most eligible bachelor.

An up-and-coming model, June Bouquet, catches Peter's eye and soon his heart. Although she is twenty years younger, they have a passionate relationship. June becomes pregnancy and Peter ends up proposing thinking that perhaps this new beginning will help heal him from the horrors of his past. Over the next twenty year, the family is eclipsed by Peter's grief and memories that overshadow them in life, loss, and love.

This beautiful story is about relationships, family, and grief. Blum is artful and detailed in her writing that is so effortless and elegant. Her study in loss is monumental and could overtake the narrative at any time, however she deftly navigates through the story than spans several years with ease. What I loved about the book is how immersed the reader is in each decade through pop culture, fashion, and of course food!

Peter is a broken and flawed character that cannot escape the guilt and grief he has over the death of his wife and daughters. The Lost Family could be considered a ghost story with a modern twist in that the family are forever living with the ghosts of Peter's past. His life is overshadowed by the ghost of his wife and daughters. Her memory smothers Peter, and June feels in constant competition with Masha. Their daughter also feels the effects, with the strife between her parents as well as the loss of a family she never knew.

This was my first book by Jenna Blum and I'm utterly enchanted. She pens complex, interesting characters, provides gorgeous descriptions, and charges her writing with emotion and depth.
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LibraryThing member wagner.sarah35
If there ever was a family that deserved a happy ending, it was this one and I may be just a little mad that the ending was more realistic than perfect. Set in New York City in the 1960s to 1980s, this novel follows the story of Peter, a chef and restaurant owner who lost his wife and two daughters
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in the Holocaust. He finds love again with a younger woman - June, a model who happens into his restaurant during a power outage. Still, not all is perfect, since Peter refuses to fully grapple with his loss during the war. It takes Peter a frustrating long time to come to terms with his experiences, which is understandable, but it also takes a painful toll on his remaining family. If you read this book, be prepared for a family with each member struggling in their own way.
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LibraryThing member clue
You have probably heard in the last few days that almost as many people have committed suicide because of the Columbine school shooting as died in the rampage itself. That very circumstance is central to this book.

The book takes place between 1965 and 1986. Peter is Jewish and a survivor of
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Auschwitz. He lives in the U.S. now and is a chef with his own restaurant, Masha's. Masha was the name of his German wife. Masha and their 3 year old twins apparently died in a camp, he never found them or any record showing their names.

Masha tried to warn Peter that even though she was Aryan they were not safe and should leave Germany when they still could. But Peter refused to go, thinking they just needed to wait awhile and life would return to normal. Twenty years later, he is so consumed with guilt that he is unable to have a relationship with anyone other than his employees. The only people he sees on a regular basis other than that are his father's cousin Sol and his wife. Eventually Peter meets a young model, June, and becomes smitten with her.

The first 80% of The Lost Family was very good, but the last 20% was a disappointment. June and Peter eventually married and had a daughter. The last of the book is primarily about her behavior at sixteen and is overwrought, overwritten and overpowers all that came before it.
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LibraryThing member ecataldi
I don't know where I expected this book to end up, but it wasn't what I imagined. That being said, it wasn't a bad thing, this book took me along for a ride that was different and unique. The characters are all horribly flawed, while still being likable and sympathetic. The book opens with Peter
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Rashkin, a Manhattan restaurant owner who is grateful for escaping the Nazis, but also feels safest hiding in a kitchen. He lost his wife and twin daughters in a camp and to honor them he names his flourishing restaurant after his wife. For two decades he's devoted every minute of his day to the success of his restaurant, he has no time for relationships or fun. That is until he meets a charming model named June Bouquet. She's easily two years his junior and they share next to nothing in common (except for their good looks) but they strike up a romance that turns out to be what neither of them expected. June always feels she is in the shadow of Peter's dead wife, and Peter just wants the simplicity of the kitchen with an occasional spice from June. As their story progresses it expands, shrinks, aches, and longs to be fulfilled. The Lost Family is the story of a non-traditional romance with heavy baggage and the tolls it takes on those involved. I liked how the story progressed across decades, the characters were also rich and complex and it felt so real. A fulfilling tale of loves progression and recession.
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LibraryThing member SquirrelHead
I am honored to have been invited to the Lost Family Virtual Supper Club hosted at the Book Club Cookbook site.

This is the first time I have participated with a virtual supper party and I’m thrilled to see some other food bloggers I know on the guest list. Jenna Blum is a new author for me and I
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can say, after diving into this page-turner, I am now hungry for the menus included as well as Blum’s other publications.

Jenna describes her book this way: "The Lost Family is a novel about a German-Jewish Auschwitz survivor named Peter Rashkin, who emigrates to New York, starts a restaurant, and falls in love—only to find his new American family haunted by the wife and daughters he lost during the war."

The story starts in the 1960’s and spans roughly 30 years. It’s about love, loss, understanding and forgiveness. Peter Rashkin, the handsome owner and chef at Masha's restaurant is the star of the story. He is a man haunted by his past, torn between the ghosts of his old family and his new family. While the other story lines focus more on June and Elspeth's point of view Peter is indeed the main character. There is wonderful imagery in this novel, you feel like you are sitting in on the conversations.

There are so many passages that feature food, drink and menus that I can’t list them all. Well, I could but then I may not post prior to this fabulous book being released on June 5, 2018 - so let me just say there is plenty of culinary inspiration.

A cold gin martini with a few Queen olives will start me off here. No recipe needed. (Photos on my book blog)

I loved this particular passage:

In every time of trouble in his life, large or small, Peter had gravitated to the kitchen. During his childhood, in flight from his father’s bullying or his mother’s disdain, Peter had sought the large square room in the back of the house where Hilde let him stir soup, roll dough and - most excitingly, and provided he held the knife just as she showed him – chop vegetables. During his teens Peter’s sole act of rebellion had been to apply for a job as Adlon commis instead of clerking in the family law firm.”

"Food is essentially the same. Julienning carrots or chiffonading basil was the same in Skokie or Berlin. A rutabaga was a rutabaga. Vegetables, meat and technique had no language. The kitchen, any kitchen, was Peter’s home.” (pp. 134-135)

I thought about Peter as he chopped vegetables and herbs, as rolled dough to make bread, losing himself in the kitchen environment. Relaxing and creating. Personally I find making bread therapeutic. I love the process of making bread, the slow kneading of the dough and creation of something everyone loves to see gracing the table. Hot, fresh bread. Yes.

♥ A labor of love ♥
This book will be released on June 5, 2018. Many thanks for this advanced reader's copy! Please check out what others have brought to the party.
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LibraryThing member shazjhb
Good read interesting story. Well defined characters. No one perfect, more like real people.

Original publication date



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