A Brilliant Life

My Mother's Inspiring True Story of Surviving the Holocaust


The powerful, true story of a Holocaust survivor told by her daughter—a tale that reminds us of the resilience of the soul and the ability of the heart to heal.

As Mira is nearing the end of her life, her daughter Rachelle wants to find out how her mother had lived through four concentration camps, including Auschwitz, and a Death March. There was a mystery to her survival, it seemed—which perhaps had something to do with the strange things that always happened around her. And, incredibly, when giving testimony later in life, she says that it was during this time—despite witnessing the depths of man’s cruelty—that she learned about “the goodness of people.”

Born in Czechoslovakia, Mira was only 12 years old when World War II broke out. At 88, living in Australia, she is diagnosed with cancer, and her journalist daughter decides to interview her to distract her from her illness. What Rachelle discovers about her mother helps her fit together the jigsaw pieces of her own life. A Brilliant Life portrays not only how remote a prospect it was to live through the Holocaust, but what it is like to be the child of a survivor. 

A story of love, loss, wonder and the deepest kind of faith, A Brilliant Life questions the role that fate, chance and destiny play in one's life. It is a tribute to family, a story of incredible resilience and a chronicle of the deep connection between mother and child that not even death can destroy. 


About the author(s)

Rachelle Unreich has been a journalist for thirty-eight years, including seven years in New York and Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in publications such as Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Rolling Stone, and the Sydney Morning Herald, and she also has been extensively published in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Southeast Asia. She lives in Melbourne, Australia.


"A delicate, evocative story of strength and survival that turns on one of the most powerful forces in the known universe: a mother's love. Braiding together the past and the present, A Brilliant Life shows how the two can never be separated—how, in families especially, we are shaped by the stories we inherit."  — Jonathan Freedland, bestselling author of The Escape Artist

“If A Brilliant Life were a painting, it would be hanging in a Palazzo in Italy among the classic chiaroscuro paintings of Caravaggio—a technique from the Renaissance era where the contrast of light and dark brushstrokes tells the whole story with some melancholy shades. Unreich has cleverly painted her mother’s story in all its shades of glory and despair; a woman who stepped into the canvas of life and painted her own bright fulfilling future.” — Harper's Bazaar

"Journalist Unreich makes a graceful book debut with a family history, gleaned from interviews that she conducted with her 89-year-old mother, Mira, before she died from cancer . . . . A daughter’s tender portrait of a woman who lived through terror." — Kirkus Reviews

"Well researched but never dry, the book shines when describing Mira’s family and her capacity to see light through horrific darkness and notice the moments of serendipity . . . We are brought into the family fold and invited to join them in Mira’s final days, enjoying the richness of the storytelling the way we might at a Shabbat meal." — Books+Publishing

"As cancer takes hold of Mira, her journalist daughter decides to interview her about her early life, her experiences in four concentration camps, her marriages and her new life in Australia. What she discovers, she relates with a filial devotion that is deeply poignant." — The Age

"Rachelle Unreich’s story of her mother’s Holocaust experiences lays bare the horror of those years . . . Woven throughout, though, and more vivid almost than their persecution and murder, is the intense love that flows through her family." — The Weekend Australian Magazine

"This powerful story reminds us of the incredible resilience of the soul and the ability of the heart to heal. A Brilliant Life is an ode to the unbreakable bond between a mother and child and questions the role that chance, and destiny play in one’s life. We highly recommend!" — 7Weekender

"A Brilliant Life goes well beyond the horrors inflicted by the Nazis. It celebrates Mira’s spirit, her creativity, sense of style and love for her family." — Plus61J Media

"I was lucky enough to meet some of the family earlier in the year when I, along with a few other booksellers, was invited to a gathering at Mira’s house. It was a night I will not forget. We left with a warm buzz; we had just experienced something very special. Now, having read the book, I know other people will be able to get a sense of this experience; the warmth, welcome and awe of a life, despite all the odds, lived with love, generosity, and a twinkle in the eye. A life lived to the full—a brilliant life." — Readings, Australian Book Retailer of the Year

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