Once We Were Brothers: Book summary and reviews of Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson

Once We Were Brothers

By Ronald H. Balson

Once We Were Brothers
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2013,
    400 pages.

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Book Summary

Elliot Rosenzweig, a respected civic leader and wealthy philanthropist, is attending a fundraiser when he is suddenly accosted and accused of being a former Nazi SS officer named Otto Piatek, "the butcher of Zamosc." Although the charges are denounced as preposterous, his accuser, Ben Solomon, is convinced he is right. Solomon persuades attorney Catherine Lockhart to take his case, revealing that the true Piatek was abandoned as a child and raised by Solomon's family only to betray them during the Nazi occupation. But has he accused the right man?

Once We Were Brothers is the compelling tale of two boys and a family who struggle to survive in war-torn Poland and a young love that incredibly endures through the unspeakable cruelty of the Holocaust. Two lives, two worlds, and sixty years converge in an explosive race to redemption that makes for an enthralling tale of love, survival, and ultimately the triumph of the human spirit.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Balson does a number of things superbly: he crafts a highly readable plotline and makes great use of the Chicago backdrop…many will enjoy this gripping novel for its narrative drive and its emotional storytelling." - Booklist

"In spite of the problematic narrative structure and some clunky prose, readers will be riveted by this novel's central question: Will justice long delayed be denied?" - Kirkus

"The author describes the atrocities of wartime Poland and the beautiful, eternal romance between Ben Solomon and his life, Hannah. Balson's first novel is hard to put down." - The Jewish Book World

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Kathy
Great historical fiction
What an exciting, heart-wrenching book! I have read many books about the Holocaust and enjoyed the perspective of this story that begins with the lives of Jews in Poland before the Nazi invasion. This was a well written book containing lots of interesting history. I would recommend this to anyone that is interested in this period of time and who enjoys a legal thriller.

Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Judy G
Very disappointed
Polish immigrants do not speak English as if they went to graduate school. The device the author uses to fill out the novel by having Ben drag out his story is ridiculous, as is a lawyer giving up her career to take his case. Of course the story of Polish Jews during the Holocaust is heart breaking but bad writing spoiled the book for me.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Barbara (Cherry Hill, NJ)
Once We Were Brothers
The self published version of the book was recommended to me earlier this year, and I didn't really want to read another Holocaust book. Once I started reading this book, I couldn't put it down. The opening premise of a Nazi possibly hiding in America as a Jew was a new twist. In addition to the historical fiction, the legal and romantic aspects kept my interest.
The current day dialogue is a little choppy, but the WWII sections about Poland are written in a precise and deliberate manner, and this historical background was enlightening.

I would rank this in my top 5 Holocaust book picks for those written in the past decade. I would not hesitate to recommend this book to bookclubs.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Janice
Once We Were Brothers
I made my comment halfway through the book. I have finished it and if I could give it higher than a 5, I would. It's been a long time since I've read a book that brought out so much emotion in me. Love, hate, compassion, grief, shock. I did not want this book to end, but I loved the ending. Looking forward to this author's next book. Thank you for a wonderful read.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Janice C. (Hayward, CA)
Once We Were Brothers
This book is so well written. Such a beautiful story of love and caring during such a horrendous tragedy. I love the characters. What a great book club discussion it would make. It should be required reading for High School students.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Leah L. (Lawrence, NY)
Truth vs. Evil
Articulate, intelligent, tenacious, loving and lovable, Holocaust survivor Ben accuses Elliot Rosenzweig, a well known Chicagoan leader, of being a former Nazi officer. According to Ben, his family in Poland gave Elliot, then known as Otto, a home. The Solomons raised, fed and education Otto who morphed into a perpetrator of evil, killing many Jews who crossed his path. The wealthy Elliot launches an offensive, denying the accusations. Ben chooses a young but troubled female attorney who, impressed with Ben's principles and values, values her heart, professionally and personally. Once We Were Brothers is an enjoyable, quick-read book that is chock full of factual history about one of the bleakest periods known to mankind. Although predictable, the end is nonetheless heartwarming and uplifting.

...20 more reader reviews

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Ronald H. Balson is a Chicago trial attorney, an educator and writer. His practice has taken him to several international venues, including villages in Poland that inspired this first novel which he self published in 2010.

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