If Huffington Post Books gave a star rating system for books, Margot deserves five bold stars. Author Jillian Cantor knows how to tell a story in such a way that you care about the characters. The pages aren't cluttered with sticky metaphors or obnoxious dialogue. Even when the book is not in your hands, you may find yourself thinking about the characters.
Everyone has a story to tell and some stories are more well-known than others. Perhaps no one's story is more recognized than Anne Frank. Tragically she died in the Holocaust, but her words remain alive in her book, The Diary of Anne Frank. What is not as well-known, is that her older sister, Margot also kept a diary. Sadly, Margot also died. However, Margot's diary was never recovered.
In this historical fiction book, Jillian Cantor imagines that Margot escaped Europe, and finds her way to the United States. It is here where, Margot decides to create a new identity for herself as Margie Franklin a young adult, non-Jewish legal secretary. Cantor is clear that this is not a Holocaust book. She says, "It is a story about identity, finding your true voice and allowing it to come through without hesitation."
While Cantor is clear, the character Margot is insecure and complex. She creates a false reality in order to safeguard her past. Magical thinking makes it possible for Margot to keep her dear friend Peter, who lived with the Franks in the annex, alive. At the same time, this magical thinking makes it impossible for her to be true to herself. She fantasizes about being reunited with Peter and her father. Margot ruminates about her relationship with her sister, and is guilt-ridden by not being able to undo the past.
Margot has a compulsive fixation in being non-Jewish. She obsessively worries that someone will notice her arm, tattooed by the Nazis, so she literally with a sweater, keeps herself under wraps. The sweater also figuratively serves as a thin veil to keep her apart from others. Margot understands that even looking at her tattoo brings up painful memories, and catches herself wondering if she can ever talk about her emotional scars. "I was marked as a Jew, the thick dark ink on my arm. It is not a badge of honor: It is a battle scar, a wound so deep I will never find a way to heal it."
As a protective mechanism, Margot detaches from all relationships. However, she does have insight into her behavior. At one point she questions herself, "Greatness is in bravery. Have I forgotten how to be brave, even in the smallest way? Is that why I hold so tightly to my sweater, my new name?"
There are times when you forget that the story is about a young woman living post-war. Cantor says she sees this novel as "a timeless story." When Margot realizes that her boss is about to marry a woman not out of love but because of family approval, she confronts him. He responds, "You get to a point in your life when it's time to stop playing around. And then you just need to bite the bullet and do the things you're supposed to do."
While Margo is anxious about her life, Cantor, a busy mother of two, was certain she had a story to write. She explains, "I wrote Margot in the three hours each day that my youngest son was in preschool. I wrote the first draft over the course of about five months, and then I spent a few months revising. When my kids were younger, I wrote in nap times and now that they are both in school all day, I spend their school hours writing." Cantor says she didn't feel compelled to write this book for a specific reader. "I really wanted to write it for myself. It is a story for me. I didn't think about how people would react."
Cantor has received positive feedback in the press and from readers. When I talked with Cantor she was on the second part of her book tour, something that in book industry seldom occurs now, unless you have a successful book. Readers time and again have chosen Margot as a book club favorite and continue to be drawn to Cantor.
Cantor is now thinking ahead to the release of her next book Searching for Sky. This is about a 16-year-old girl living on an island after experiencing a tragedy. Her family is desperately trying to find her.This book is written for young adults.
When asked about what she is currently writing she is tightlipped but does reveal this. "I'm working on my next book for adults, which will be published by Riverhead. It's a historical novel about a woman who befriends Ethel and Julius Rosenberg and becomes caught up in the intrigue surrounding them and their trial."
To learn more about Author Jillian Cantor, you can go here.