Rhonda Fink-Whitman’s vivid and provoking 94 Maidens (recently released) was adapted from her award-winning screenplay and is based on true events. In it, Fink-Whitman tells the tale of her own journey through formerly Nazi-occupied cities of Europe, to uncover clues about her mother’s childhood experiences as a Holocaust victim. Fink-Whitman, in her bold travels, gains access to secret vaults of information, old synagogues, shops and concentration camps, determined to explain, justify and heal the pain that has haunted her mother her entire life.
Fink-Whitman’s book begins with a brief, curious flashback to a group of young women gathered at a table, sadly stirring an unidentified substance into glasses. Fink-Whitman then sends readers straight into core of her life—her family, and her job as an enthusiastic electronic retailer on a televised shop-from-home TV network.
While dining out one day with her husband, children, and her mother, who is referred to as ‘Bubbie,’ Fink-Whitman (Rhonda) realizes the lack of consideration and understanding her family has for Bubbie, a Holocaust survivor. With time running out and Bubbie’s refusal to speak out about her past, Rhonda concludes that she must uncover the truth of Bubbie’s experiences in the Holocaust for herself, before it’s too late. Rhonda must travel to Europe—soon.
Rhonda indeed makes the trip, bringing her son and husband along for moral support. As she explores vaults of forbidden files and remnants of the past, readers are periodically sent back in time to learn the story of a young couple and their baby who are desperately dodging the Nazis monsters, and a group of schoolgirls placed under the care of their teacher, who is persistently searching for ways to keep the girls safe.
Fink-Whitman’s 94 Maidens not only reveals hidden truths about her mother’s past, but also brings to the forefront the details, emotions and everyday issues of thousands of other Holocaust victims and survivors. Characters in the book, many of whom are based on real people, are portrayed as unique individuals with real feelings. These distinctive illustrations give readers a personal understanding of victims and their emotional scars.
In terms of style, 94 Maidens is clear and contemporary, making it a breeze to read. Fink-Whitman’s down-to-earth approach to story telling, in addition to her use of ‘showing’ over ‘telling,’ captivates in a way that keeps one reading and subconsciously absorbing a great deal of historical information.
While 94 Maidens sheds light on the truth of Holocaust horrors, many bright, inspiring passages keep the story significantly light-hearted, making it a great read for anyone. In addition, this book would serve as an excellent tool for students and teachers in history and literature classes, Sunday Schools, and for those, and families of those, with first-hand experience of the Holocaust. Through the book, it is possible to gain a deeper understanding of history, a newfound appreciation of both Holocaust survivors and the privilege of freedom, and the importance of using one’s freedom to strive for truth, peace and justice in the world.
Readers can also access the 94 Maidens Facebook page for more details on the author and the book.