An Epiphany In Lilacs

Rated 5.00 out of 5 based on 1 customer rating
(1 customer review)


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An Epiphany In Lilacs is a young adult novel set in a DP camp outside Hamburg, Germany following the end of World War II. The author, Iris Dorbian, captures in this story a unique glimpse into the period after the Holocaust when survivors had to deal with their new realities for living, based on her father’s personal experience. After liberation in May 1945, Daniel, a 14-year-old Latvian Jew, is treated in a field hospital in the British zone of partitioned Germany. A survivor of various concentration camps, Daniel fights to recover from starvation and disease. Racked by nightmares, a nearly nightly occurrence, Daniel finds sleep almost impossible. Through his love of nature, and pre-war memories, Daniel struggles to find comfort. He forms an intriguing bond with an older German gentile, another survivor. Later on, as he joins a theater troupe, Daniel tries to move on with his life, yet still searching for the whereabouts of his mother and two sisters. Poised on the cusp of a new life, young Daniel makes his way to the country that will become his new home.

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Author: Iris Dorbian
  • ISBN-13: 978-1946124036

1 review for An Epiphany In Lilacs

  1. Rated 5 out of 5

    5 out of 5

    FROM MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW: September 2017
    The setting takes place outside of Hamburg, Germany, after World War II. Fourteen-year-old Daniel has barely survived various concentration camps and he’s in a field hospital still struggling to survive and recover. How can a young adult on the cusp of death recover from devastating physical and psychological wounds?

    More so than most accounts of post-World War II, An Epiphany in Lilacs offers a powerful survey of post-traumatic stress syndrome and the lengthy and challenging process of healing from wartime atrocities, as seen from a young man who is on the brink of adulthood; yet still a child in many ways.

    The choices he makes at this point are poignant and reflective of the experiences of Displaced People (‘DPs’) who occupied these camps and found their lives and world in shambles, with no clear path to reconstruction in the face of chaos and confusion.

    While all these sound like adult themes, the special pleasure of An Epiphany in Lilacs is Iris Dorbian’s ability to reflect the perspective of a juvenile as he struggles to gain a new lease on life with revised perspectives and fresh goals. That the story line carefully refutes popular myths (such as those that most Germans were Nazis) only enhances its lessons and stories of courage, diversity, and how one not only survives but grows from world-changing devastation.

    As the story adds characters and focuses on their different approaches to healing (“Just as Daniel needed to talk about the past to help him move on, Silka preferred to think about today and the future. That was how he chose to heal and from one survivor to another, there was nothing wrong about that.”), young adults receive important lessons that personalize the World War II experience on all sides in the aftermath of war.

    As Daniel confronts how his experiences have conflicted with his values and changed his approaches to life (“It made sense given their history that stemmed from way back before the war. And yet, underneath his immature bravado and petulance, Daniel was an insecure and scared kid. If his mother were here, she would no doubt take him to task for being so uncouth and uncivil toward Wolfson.”), he tackles the foundations of his heritage, his missing family, and his belief systems, bringing young readers along for a thought-provoking survey that will raise many questions suitable for classroom discussion.

    An Epiphany in Lilacs is not only a tribute to the DPs who physically survived the war and were challenged to mentally recover and take a new road in life; but is a powerful survey of the roots and concepts of Zionism and the long path one teen takes to rediscover meaning in his world.

    It’s highly recommended as not only an intrinsic addition to any teen reading The Diary of Anne Frank and similar nonfiction stories, but for classrooms looking for discussion materials specific to the experiences of Displaced Persons in the aftermath of the war.

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