The Endless Steppe is, first of all, an excellent history lesson. It spells out some of the consequences of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939: the deportation of Polish citizens, the wartime separation of families, and the hardship of labor camps. Although the Rudomins' Judaism is not a major theme of the book, The Endless Steppe also provides glimpses of anti-Semitism and bitter class-consciousness. Behind the engrossing story of Esther Rudomin and her family lies a sense of the tragedy and paradox of political conflicts: the Rudomins live a cultivated and gracious life in Vilna while all over Russia people live under the most difficult conditions. The question that arises is whether it is possible to house, clothe, and feed everyone properly without tearing down the social and economic structures of such people as the Rudomins, who earned their privileged life by talent and effort.
Although it raises important political questions, The Endless Steppe is also notable for its inspirational value. Esther and her family exhibit courage, strength, and resourcefulness under the most trying physical, social, and economic conditions. Esther's ingenuity, her valiant coping with illness and a hostile climate, her struggles with school, teachers, and friends make her a heroine to admire and emulate.
(The entire section is 203 words.)
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