This is a good solid book. It is lagging at times and vague at times (both of which might be requirements for me to all a book solid). As Malkiel works through his father's past he discovers things about himself and his own life as well as his history as a descendant of a Holocaust survivor.
Elhanen is a unique character in that he only desires to tell his son (and by extension the reader) his story because he is going to lose it. He is not a sappy character reminiscing through bitterness or a desire for vengeance; he is a man faced with his own mortality and the impending loss of his individuality (after all, what is memory if not our own sense of ourselves) who must convey his thoughts to his son to prevent further loss.
Malkiel is a very attentive (somewhat unbelievably so) son who as a journalist has a remarkable lack of interest in his father's past (yeah, I know Elhanen didn't want to talk about it, but we don't really get a sense that Malkiel ever pushed him) prior to the onset of Alzheimer's.
I liked the juxtaposition of past and present and the hodge-podge nature of the storytelling. It really flows in the way that our thoughts can flow. Sitting here, now, talking to someone will spark memories of the past which then surface during the course of the book.
I also enjoyed Wiesel's commentary on the importance of:
living in the moment: "To live in the moment, to hold desire and fulfillment in one's grasp, to fuse with someone else, with oneself; to become infinity." and "The important thing is to be aware o the present. The moment possesses its own power, its own eternity, just as love creates its own absolute. Hoping to conquer time is wanting to be someone else: you cannot live in the past and present at once. Whoever tries to runs the risk of locking himself into abstractions that separate a man from his own self. To slip out of the present can be dangerous--suddenly man finds himself in an ambiguous universe. In our world, strength resides in the act of creating and recreating one's own truth and one's own divinity."
overcoming fear, especially in relationships: "Do you think I'm not afraid? I'm afraid of growing old, and ugly, and sick; I'm afraid of dying. But as long as I'm young I want my youth to make me happy; as long as I'm beautiful I want my beauty to intoxicate you. Of course everything's ephemeral in this life. But to say that because the future is threatening and death exists we have no right to love, and to life, is to resign yourself to defeat and shame, and I won't do that, ever." and "Malkiel felt a sort of tenderness for her, mingled with dread: she intimidated him and encouraged him at the same time." and "What I love about you is myself. Don't laugh; I love the image you receive of me. In you, thanks to you, I feel purer and more deserving."
revenge: "We do not make one human suffer for the sins of another."
Overall it is worth reading, definitely a different angle on the Holocaust; this is less a story about things happening to a Jewish person during WWII and more about an individual's experience of the war and his life.