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Best Books of 2022 – Chapter 2

I would imagine that most everyone is familiar with the tragic story of Anne Frank and her famous diary written during WWII while in hiding with her family in Amsterdam (Anne Frank house below).

I have not only read her published diary, but I have also been fortunate enough to actually visit their hiding place on three separate occasions.  But if you have only read her diary, you only know part of the story, the part she wrote from the time their family went into hiding until they were discovered over two years later.  So, when I saw this book by Rosemary Sullivan published in 2022, that explored who had betrayed those hiding at Prisengracht 263, I knew I had to read it.

This book started with the assembly of the team of investigators and then provided some background information of why the Frank family (and so many other Jewish families) went into hiding as well as where they hid.  Pouring over numerous records, testimonies, interviews, and other published accounts, the team reconstructed what they believed to be the sequence of events of the raid on that fateful morning in August 1944.  It is chilling to read the timeline of events.  As I read the words, I felt myself hoping for a different outcome, but I knew it was not to be.

Based on the clues that the team had researched, they produced a list of potential suspects who could have been the person who betrayed them by alerting the Germans to their hiding place.  And then in what reads like a real-life murder mystery, these suspects are explored but then ruled out based on new findings.  As I neared the end and the reveal of the culprit, I was surprised to find out who it was.

If you have any interest in learning more about Anne Frank and her fellow hiders, I cannot recommend this book enough for there were times when I could not put it down.

I don’t recall how I came across this 2021 published book by Laura Dave, an author I had not heard of before, but when I read the brief synopsis, I was intrigued.  I immediately put it on my Amazon Kindle Wishlist and there I left it for many months waiting for the price to drop.  It never did.  So, when my daughter gave me an Amazon gift card for my birthday to buy books I wanted, it was the first of several I snatched up.

I always enjoy reading books set in locations I have been to and with this one set in Sausalito (just across the bay from San Francisco) and Austin, Texas, I could easily visualize the locations as I read the story.  And what a story this one was!  What starts out as the unexplained disappearance of her husband of only one year following the FBI arrest of his boss in an Enron-esque scandal takes on twists and turns that when the true mystery is revealed will absolutely shock you.  Throughout the storyline, occasional past coversations of the wife, her husband, and his 16-year-old daughter from progressively more distant times provide sleuthing clues to help the reader arrive at the unbelievable truth.

I so enjoyed this book, and, on several occasions, I had to literally force myself to put the book down to go to bed.  I will say no more to avoid spoiling it for you, but I must say I will go back and explore other books by this author.

While most of the books I read are a digital format, I still enjoy going into a brick-and-mortar bookstore on occasion.  So, when my wife suggested we go to Burke’s Book Store before eating out dinner one evening, I readily agreed.  Had I not ventured into this unique bookstore that has been in business since 1875, I dare say I may not have run across this short little book by Bill Haltom.  As I love reading books about things being built, I immediately picked this one up and thumbed through it briefly before quickly making the purchase decision.

For anyone who has lived in Memphis for three or four decades, the transformation of the Sears Crosstown building is nothing short of miraculous.  Having moved to Memphis in 1970, I can recall shopping at this store/mail order center during its heyday realizing this was the building from which most of our Sears’s purchases shipped from while living in a small town in Arkansas.  As many Americans of my age can recall, shopping at Sears was a part of our growing up so it was sad to see this store close and the company in general decline.

This book started with an interesting history of the founding and early years of the company by Richard Sears and Alvah Roebuck.  What was surprising to me was learning of the tremendous philanthropy of one of its earliest executives, Julius Rosenwald, and the impact he had on so many lives in the poor and rural south.  Not long after, came the selection of Memphis as the site for a new mail order and retail center.  It opened its doors in 1927 and was expanded multiple times over the years before being shuttered in 1993 and falling into a dismal state of disrepair.

The rest of the book focused on the efforts by several Memphis visionaries to create a “vertical urban village.”  Some of the images in the book brought back memories of my wife and I sitting inside the cavernous but dilapidated building and listening to these individuals presenting their ideas of what the building could become.  It was not an easy path to restoration, and it required the support and dedication of many others including major local tenants that have historically helped those most in need thus tying back to the work of Rosenwald so many years before.  And in 2017, nearly 90 years after first opening its doors, it reopened in grand fashion and the main 10-story atrium, created by cutting through floors of concrete, is a keystone of that successful transformation from Sears Crosstown to Crosstown Concourse.

     To be Continued…

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