This book is largely about one woman discovering her father’s significant role in the Polish resistance movement in Warsaw during WW2. At the factual level, it is a great lesson about the tremendous cost of war and the incredible acts of individual bravery that people exhibited. It reminds the reader that what we are experiencing now is nothing in comparison to the horrors of WW2. But at a deeper level, this was also a book about parenting, and about the effects of parenting through the generations.
I recommend this book for the parenting angle it offers if only to provide perspective on how much parenting has changed. Much of the change is for the best. Some of it is not. Some of those changes have pushed expectations and standards for parenting to an extreme, resulting in the kind of anxiety-filled “helicopter” parenting that occurs at one end of our social spectrum. At the other end, we have a rising number of single mother households whose income levels suggest they are just trying make ends meet and don’t have time to indulge in angst-filled debates over what impact attachment parenting and feeding on demand have on development.
Cosby’s book is a powerful reminder that even ignoring angst-filled debates is a luxury compared to the way her father came of age and how that impacted her own childhood. So many WW2 memoirs are, understandably, filled with such horror and grief that they can be difficult to even read. In telling her father’s tale, Cosby avoids that crushing sadness without sacrificing the truth. The result is an interesting story with an undercurrent message on parenting, doing what you can with what you have, and the opportunity for second chances even in the most difficult of relationships.