Erin Einhorn's mother Irene (born Irena Frydrych) survived World War II as a Jewish child in hiding with a Polish family. Her father lived to be liberated from the concentration camps and claimed her after the war, and they eventually made their way to America via Sweden. Irene always claimed to remember very little of her childhood, but Erin, who grew up to be a journalist, wanted to know more, so she began doing her own research. Almost against her will, her mother becomes interested in what Erin is learning, and Erin decides to extend her research by journeying to Poland and Sweden, despite misgivings over Poland's history of anti-Semitism. After a few months, she plans to bring her mother back with her to share what she's learned.
Erin succeeds in locating the descendants of the family that "saved" her mother, still living in the same home - which she is surprised to learn still belongs to her mother's family. The family who sheltered Irene, the Skowrońskis, claim that Erin's grandfather offered them the house in exchange for keeping his daughter safe, but nothing official was ever done to give them possession, and Poland's years under Communist rule further complicated property-ownership issues. Now that a Frydrych descendant has found them, the Skowrońskis want Erin's help with the house, and she finds that she needs to learn about even more distant relations as well as Polish property laws. However, she no longer has her original motivation for the project - just a few months into her year abroad, her mother dies of cancer, and Erin questions why she continues to do this.
Erin Einhorn's unconventional detective work and exploration of family history make The Pages in Between an intriguing story, although at times I found it slow going. Einhorn is interested in putting a narrative together, and one of the things that fascinates her is what would motivate a Christian family in a country with a strongly anti-Semitic tradition to protect a Jewish child from the Nazis; it seems that the motivation was a house. Meanwhile, she remains curious, and somewhat conflicted, about modern Poland's relationship with the Jewish people - and while it does have some relevance to her story, I found that the sections where she dwelled on that disrupted the book for me. The personal, family, and even property history interested me more, although sometimes the names got a little confusing.
Einhorn's writing is engaging, however, and despite the slow patches, much of the time the narrative flows along. The year in Poland is a frustrating and sometimes difficult one. I empathized with her struggles and enjoyed her successes with her. The Places in Between isn't a feel-good book, but it's a well-crafted and at times fascinating one.