Excerpt from Joop: A Novel of Anne Frank (A Hatred for Tulips) by Richard Lourie, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Joop: A Novel of Anne Frank (A Hatred for Tulips)

by Richard Lourie

Joop: A Novel of Anne Frank (A Hatred for Tulips) by Richard Lourie
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2007, 192 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2008, 192 pages

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Now I hated him. It was our mother reborn as an American teenager and though the hair was done up in an American style, it was still our mother’s thick, blond hair, and her eyes were the same too, she even had the same green vein at the side of her temple. So, not only did he get to have our mother for all his childhood, he got to have her again as a grandchild.

But I must not be transparent in any way—at least, he didn’t seem to notice. “Cindy’s a terrific kid, kind, helpful, full of good, clean fun. And of all the kids and grandkids, she’s the one who’s most interested in her Dutch background. Reads everything she can get her hands on.”

“You should have brought her over.”

“Maybe next time,” he said with what seemed a kind of wistful sadness. Maybe he had some serious illness, I thought, maybe that’s why he’s decided to make the trip and see his brother, though he still hasn’t once called me by name.

“She should come,” I said. “Holland has plenty to offer. But teach her one thing from her uncle.”

“What’s that?”

“Not to ooh and aah over the tulips. I hate tulips. They’re too pretty when they’re alive and look so dead when they die. But the real reason I hate them is I know what they taste like. In the war, at the end, when there was nothing, we ate them, we ate tulip bulbs.”

“I don’t remember that,” he said. “I don’t remember much. And the few memories I do have, I can’t be sure if they’re really true or just stories my mother, our mother, told me.”

“You’re lucky then.”

“But I want to know what happened. During the war. And just after.”

“What for?”

“You know the feeling when someone starts to tell you a good story, then right after he gets going he decides he shouldn’t be telling it and just stops. And you try to convince him that once you start a story, you have to finish, it isn’t fair otherwise. Most people will give in to that but sometimes they won’t and you’re left completely frustrated. Well, that’s sort of how I feel about my life, except it’s the beginning I don’t know about.”

“And that’s why you came here?”

“That’s why I came here, Joop.”

“Well, maybe you can tell me a few stories too.”

“Maybe I can.”

“Except for a few postcards from our mother and the letter you sent when she died, there’s not much I know.”

“I know,” he said, dropping his eyes. “I’m sorry.”

“Another beer?”

“Another beer would be good.”

For a second in the kitchen I did not want to go back to the table, to my brother, to the past and all its sorrows.

I looked out the window. The sky was a bright blue with a few gray rain clouds. A young woman pedaled by on a black bike, talking on her cell phone.

If I had died three years ago in the hospital, none of this would have happened, my brother, the rain cloud, the girl on her bike. But I didn’t die.

I went back to the front room.

My brother took a long swig of beer. The part of the story he did know—our mother leaving our father, who had been incapacitated by a stroke right after the war—wasn’t too pretty, and the part he didn’t know about wasn’t any prettier.

Take a good swig, my lucky American brother, who has so few bad memories that he had to come all the way to Holland to get some.

“You know who Anne Frank is?” I asked.

“Of course,” he said, as if I had offended his intelligence and Dutch pride.

“When they came to get her, they went right to her hiding place.”

Copyright © 2007 by Richard Lourie. All rights reserved.

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