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Herbert, "Carnival Girl" (reviewed by Karen Hamilton) Options · View
Posted: Saturday, September 08, 2012 6:00:12 PM

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Title: Carnival Girl
Author: Sonja Herbert
Publisher: Cedar Fort
Genre: Nonfiction
Year Published: 2012
Number of Pages: 203
Binding: Paperback
ISBN13: 978-1-59955-996-4
Price: $14.99

Reviewed by Karen Hamilton for the Association for Mormon Letters

This is a very well-written memoir of the childhood of a young girl born in the aftermath of WWII Germany, raised in a carnival. I've always been fascinated by WWII history. The author's mother, half Jewish, ran away to the circus to evade the Nazis. She fell in love and married a man who worked in the circus. They left the circus together with the beginnings of their own caravan. They added to it a little at a time as they added to their family.

At the beginning of most of the chapters, the author draws us back to the present where her mother is paying her an extended visit. This serves two purposes. First, while Sonja and her mother relive the past together, she learns some of the reasons for her mother's behavior, memories she'd previously seen through a child's understanding. Second, although a bit distracting, the present serves to bring the past into sharp contrast. All in all, this memoir is an honest glimpse into another time, another world.

Sonja first explains that her mother (Mutti) had to stay hidden and out of the way from the war and all the negative things that unfortunately came with being a Jew at that time. Mutti was a strong woman regardless, and although I can't say that I always agreed with her parenting skills, she had a backbone that would break concrete and took care of all her children well.

Reading into the childhood of Sonja and her life of traveling in a caravan, no heat, and just enough food to make it at times, then learning of her and her siblings jumping in and out of schools so they could continue traveling while maintaining some sort of normalcy, not to mention having to work in the carnival themselves, left me with an open heart of love for her. Sonja, being as young as she was, was introduced to God and at times, when things got almost unbearable for her, would turn to prayer.

Within the excitement of traveling life and surrounded by her family, you see a lonely little girl, searching for something more, some semblance of normalcy, something constant which she can rely on. She finds what she's searching for in the comfort of God, despite being made fun of by those she loves for her beliefs. Sonja mainly wants her family to appreciate and love her. She doesn't always feel noticed or cared about and simply wants to do her best.

I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and interesting story. This book details Sonja's life growing up in a traveling carnival. Every summer her family would move from city to city in post WWII Germany. They lived year round in a caravan. With six children, this was not a comfortable life for the family. I learned quite a bit about the struggles of families to survive financially and find housing in the aftermath of the war.

Eventually Sonja retells her conversion to the LDS faith. While it was pivotal in her life, it wasn't the whole of the story. This story runs much deeper than faith. It is the semantics of a family. It is the struggle to survive. I think anyone who is interested in history and life lessons will enjoy this book.
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