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Lexington author traces trauma’s long reach

Arts journalist and author Helen Epstein, of Lexington.Laura Epstein

After veteran arts journalist and author Helen Epstein finished writing “The Long Half-Lives of Love and Trauma,” the memoir was rejected by approximately 40 traditional publishers — including three that had published her books in the past.

“I think they were scared by it,” said Epstein, a Lexington resident who was born in Prague to survivors of the Holocaust. “It’s a topic that neither men nor women wanted to talk about for their own reasons.”

The book was published last month by Plunkett Lake Press, which Epstein and her husband, management consultant Patrick Mehr, formed in 1985. Its timing now seems prescient, with Epstein calling it “possibly the first #MeToo memoir of 2018” — referring to the movement that originated in Hollywood and continues to expose sexual predation in various industries nationwide.


Epstein began working on the book 15 years ago as a memoir of teenage love from the perspective of a middle-aged wife and mother. As the project progressed, however, she said it “took its own turn,” tracking the psychological effects of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment over her lifetime.

In fact, “The Long Half-Lives of Love and Trauma” is the third of a nonfiction trilogy. It follows “Children of the Holocaust,” her 1979 account of inter-generational transmission of trauma, and the memoir “Where She Came From: A Daughter’s Search for Her Mother’s History,” a genealogical travelogue to post-Communist Europe published in 1997.

Epstein is gratified that “The Long Half-Lives of Love and Trauma” is generating conversation, as did its predecessors. As for her role, she says she sees herself “as a witness giving testimony.”

“Trauma permeates every part of one’s life, including relationships,” Epstein said.

“ ‘The Long Half-Lives of Love and Trauma’ is a memoir that focuses on how the Holocaust affected my intimate life — emotionally, sexually, physically. Unlike my arts journalism and my other books, it’s extremely personal and subjective. I daresay it pushes the envelope and is, in its own way, as helpful as ‘Children of the Holocaust’ was to some readers in 1979. I hope so.”


For more information, visit helenepstein.com.

Cindy Cantrell

Cindy Cantrell can be reached at cindycantrell20@gmail.com.