Christiane, married and mother of two sons, is suffering from breast cancer. It is one of aggressive forms, and she will die of it. The narrator, one of the sons, comes to rest, he remembers. In flashbacks he relives his childhood, adolescence and growing up. Some chapters begin in italics: “I’m ten years old and have summer vacation.” Since he lives with his parents in the GDR and is looking forward to the annual summer camp.
Other chapters are filled with memories of the history of his grandparents.
Christiane’s mother fell during the Nazi era in the physicist John Figulla, a Jew. To marry him, she would have done anything. To be a Jew it is forbidden by the Aryans law. Soon John must flee – she will never see him again. There she is pregnant, she in a critical condition. In Brandenburg they survived the war with her little daughter Christiane, the mother of the narrator. Later, the grandmother married, but with this man – a communist and trailers Stalin -.
In addition to Christiane’s disease employs the narrator the subject of his Jewish origin, as the son of a half-Jew he is a quarter Jew. Before the turn, there were only a few Jews in East Berlin, so no synagogue and no rabbi. Only during his studies in the cities of Boston and New York, with its diverse Jewish life he learned it as a matter of course, to be a Jew.
Back in Germany, he is again confronted with the problem of being Jewish.
On one hand, his mother was “too Jewish” before birth – it had to be hidden. But after her death, she is not Jewish enough to be buried in the Jewish cemetery in Berlin. Other examples of how he is as “too Jewish” or “not right Jewish” judged to follow. A difficult book, especially for people like me who were born after the war and in its individualistic world view the question of the degree to which someone feels a particular group or is defined as belonging of others, not one of the central problems of identity.