The Choice

Embrace the Possible

LIST PRICE $12.99
About The Book

A New York Times Bestseller

“I’ll be forever changed by Dr. Eger’s story…The Choice is a reminder of what courage looks like in the worst of times and that we all have the ability to pay attention to what we’ve lost, or to pay attention to what we still have.”—Oprah

“Dr. Eger’s life reveals our capacity to transcend even the greatest of horrors and to use that suffering for the benefit of others. She has found true freedom and forgiveness and shows us how we can as well.” —Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

“Dr. Edith Eva Eger is my kind of hero. She survived unspeakable horrors and brutality; but rather than let her painful past destroy her, she chose to transform it into a powerful gift—one she uses to help others heal.” —Jeannette Walls, New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Castle

Winner of the National Jewish Book Award and Christopher Award

At the age of sixteen, Edith Eger was sent to Auschwitz. Hours after her parents were killed, Nazi officer Dr. Josef Mengele, forced Edie to dance for his amusement and her survival. Edie was pulled from a pile of corpses when the American troops liberated the camps in 1945.

Edie spent decades struggling with flashbacks and survivor’s guilt, determined to stay silent and hide from the past. Thirty-five years after the war ended, she returned to Auschwitz and was finally able to fully heal and forgive the one person she’d been unable to forgive—herself.

Edie weaves her remarkable personal journey with the moving stories of those she has helped heal. She explores how we can be imprisoned in our own minds and shows us how to find the key to freedom. The Choice is a life-changing book that will provide hope and comfort to generations of readers.

Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for The Choice includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

The Choice is a powerful, moving memoir—and a practical guide to healing—written by Dr. Edith Eva Eger, an eminent psychologist whose own experiences as a Holocaust survivor help her treat patients and guide them toward freedom from trauma, grief, and fear. One of the few living Holocaust survivors to remember the horrors of the camps, Edie has chosen to forgive her captors and find joy in her life every day. The Choice weaves Eger’s personal story with case studies from her work as a psychologist. Her patients and their stories illustrate different phases of healing and show how people can choose to escape the prisons they construct in their minds and find freedom, regardless of circumstance. Eger’s story is an inspiration for everyone.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Dr. Eger defines trauma as “a nearly constant feeling in my gut that something is wrong, or that something terrible is about to happen, the automatic fear responses in my body telling me to run away, to take cover, to hide myself from the danger that is everywhere” (pages 5–6). After reading Dr. Eger’s memoir, do you find this to be an accurate, complete definition? Why or why not? If not, how would you define trauma?

2. In the beginning of the book, Dr. Eger asserts that there is no hierarchy of suffering, a statement she maintains after sharing her story of barely surviving the Holocaust. Do you agree? How does Dr. Eger demonstrate this belief throughout the book? How does she put her own suffering on the same level as that of her patients?

3. On page 18, Dr. Eger writes, “Maybe every childhood is the terrain on which we try to pinpoint how much we matter and how much we don’t, a map where we study the dimensions and the borders of our worth.” How does Dr. Eger’s childhood exemplify this statement? How does your own childhood prove or disprove this statement?

4. Before being taken from her home and imprisoned in an internment camp, Dr. Eger entrusted a beloved photograph of herself to a friend. She said she had no premonition of what was to come, but felt a need to preserve evidence of her life. How important do you think that photograph was in Dr. Eger’s healing process? In what ways do you preserve evidence of your life?

5. After arriving at Auschwitz, Dr. Josef Mengele forces Dr. Eger to dance for him to “The Blue Danube.” Discuss the power and residual effect of this moment on Edie’s life.

6. Several times throughout the book, Dr. Eger offers instances in which SS officers were kind to her and helped save her life—notably on pages 49 and 57. Why do you think she shares these positive glimpses of generally cruel treatment? How do they shape your understanding of her experience in the camps?

7. So often when we learn about the Holocaust—in fiction, nonfiction, movies, museums—the focus is on the horrors of the internment camps. Rarely do we hear about the aftermath as ravaged families and traumatized victims tried to rebuild their lives in a climate that remained anti-Semitic and hostile, even in America. What did you learn from Dr. Eger’s memories of life after liberation? What was surprising to you?

8. How does Dr. Eger’s relationship with Eric compare to her relationship with Béla? How was each relationship uniquely essential for her survival? What needs did each relationship fulfill?

9. What roles do fear and shame play in Dr. Eger’s life, both past and present? How does she describe the constant presence of shame and fear? How do these emotions contour her life after liberation? As a psychologist, how does Dr. Eger recommend dealing with fear? With shame?

10. Why do you think Dr. Eger feels she is protecting her children by hiding her past from them? What might you have done in her situation?

11. On page 135, Dr. Eger writes that she objects to classifying post-traumatic stress as a disorder. She says, “It’s not a disordered reaction to trauma—it’s a common and natural one.” Do you agree? Does that change the way in which you view people suffering from PTSD?

12. What do you make of the casual way in which Béla would often reference the war and his wife’s standing as a survivor? Why do you think he is able to be more cavalier about their past?

13. Discuss the concept of “learned helplessness,” which Dr. Eger describes on page 170. Where do you see learned helplessness in the book and in the world around you?

14. Dr. Eger describes her education and training as a psychologist and her work with patients. How does her education and work in healing others help her with her own steps to healing?

15. In the second half of the book, Dr. Eger offers anecdotes from different patients with whom she has worked. Discuss the various patients’ stories—the young girl struggling with anorexia, the man struggling with severe rage after his wife cheats on him, the couple seeking therapy to deal with a drinking problem, the woman traumatized by rape—and the lessons each has to offer.

16. The Choice is full of powerful and profound moments of healing, for example when Dr. Eger stands outside Hitler’s home and yells that she has chosen to forgive him, or when she chooses to forgive herself for inadvertently sending her mother to the gas chambers by identifying her as “mother,” not “sister.” These choices have enabled her to move forward and help others. Which moments resonated most with you?

17. Throughout the book, Dr. Eger provides a wealth of sage advice. What was most helpful to you, personally?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Watch The Red Shoes, the movie that greatly impacted Dr. Eger after she and Béla saw the film in 1950. Did watching the movie help you understand Dr. Eger’s reaction to the film as well as her connection to dance?

2. Read Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Compare and contrast his testimony and his theories about human freedom and choice with Dr. Eger’s.

3. Compare Dr. Eger’s memories of the Holocaust with widely read accounts such as Elie Wiesel’s Night or Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl.

4. When meeting with your book club, ask everyone to prepare a traditional Hungarian dish like the meals Dr. Eger describes in The Choice. Enjoy the taste of Dr. Eger’s homeland as you learn more about its past.
About The Author
Jordan Engle

An eminent psychologist and one of the few remaining Holocaust survivors old enough to remember life in the camps, Dr. Edith Eger has worked with veterans, military personnel, and victims of physical and mental trauma. She lives in La Jolla. The Choice is her first book.

Product Details
  • Publisher: Scribner (September 2017)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501130816

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Raves and Reviews

“I’ll be forever changed by Dr. Eger’s story…The Choice is a reminder of what courage looks like in the worst of times and that we all have the ability to pay attention to what we’ve lost, or to pay attention to what we still have.”

– Oprah

"Edith’s strength and courage are remarkable in this memoir as she draws on her own unthinkable experience in Nazi concentration camps to become a therapist and help others recover from all kinds of hardship. Her life and work are an incredible example of forgiveness, resilience and generosity."

– Sheryl Sandberg

“Dr. Edith Eva Eger is my kind of hero. She survived unspeakable horrors and brutality; but rather than let her painful past destroy her, she chose to transform it into a powerful gift – one she uses to help others heal.”

– Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle

"The Choice is a gift to humanity.  One of those rare and eternal stories that you don't want to end and that leave you forever changed.  Dr. Eger's life reveals our capacity to transcend even the greatest of horrors and to use that suffering for the benefit of others.  She has found true freedom and forgiveness and shows us how we can as well."

– Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

“I can’t imagine a more important message for modern times. Eger’s book is a triumph, and should be read by all who care about both their inner freedom and the future of humanity.”

– New York Times Book Review

A beautiful memoir, reminiscent of the great works of Anne Frank and Viktor Frankl. But it is more than a book—it is a work of art. It gave me goosebumps, the kind that grace you in transcendent moments of appreciating a Mozart sonata, an Elizabeth Barrett Browning sonnet, or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

– Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take, Originals, and Option B with Sheryl Sandberg

"A more important book for our times is hard to imagine"

– The Bookseller

"A poignantly crafted memoir...a searing, astute study of intensive healing and self-acceptance through the absolution of suffering and atrocity.”

– Kirkus, starred review

"Life’s experiences can lead to contraction and grief and to expansion and love. The story of Edie Eger’s WWII era experiences and her subsequent growth and life path is an incredible journey and victory of the human soul over the pain of human degradation."

– Stephen Robinson, CEO, MAGIS Group LLC, Specialist in Optimal Performance under Stress™ (OPS™) training

The Choice will be an extraordinary book on heroism, healing, resiliency, compassion, survival with dignity, mental toughness, and moral courage. It will appeal to millions of people who can learn from Dr. Eger’s inspiring cases and shocking personal story as well as her profound clinical wisdom to heal their lives.”

– Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D., Stanford Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Author of the New York Times-Bestselling The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

“Eger present a searing firsthand account of surviving the Holocaust in this heartfelt memoir of trauma, resilience, and hope…  Offering a gripping survival story and hard-won wisdom for facing the painful impact of trauma on the human psyche, this valuable work bears witness to the strength of the human spirit to overcome unfathomable evil.”

– Library Journal

The Choice uses Eger's journey to teach readers how they, too, can triumph over trauma.”

– Broadly

“The Choice…details [Eger's] time at Auschwitz, her escape, and how she became a groundbreaking clinical therapist who has paved the road for treatment of trauma survivors battling Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).”

– Kveller.com

"This book, no doubt, will be remembered as important for going beyond the realm of a  Holocaust memoir and becoming a Holocaust life lesson."

– San Diego Jewish World

The Choice pulls together stories and insights [Eger] has shared with people around the world for decades and reveals new dimensions of her remarkable life.”

– El Paso Inc.

The Choice is more than an eloquent memoir by Holocaust survivor and psychologist Edith Eva Eger. It is an exploration of the healing potential of choice. . .  Eger is not suggesting that she is unscarred by her experience, but that she lives a life filled with grace. The Choice is not a how-to book; it is, however, an invitation to choose to live life fully.”

– Book Page

“I finished the book with tears in my eyes and gratitude in my heart.”

– Carol Brooks, First for Women

"We brought Dr. Eger to work with our most troubled military personnel—people grappling with the most intense emotional scars from their experience in battle. Dr. Eger is a healer of the highest order. Personally, I have learned from this gifted human being, this indomitable survivor, this accomplished therapist more about humanity—and suffering—and resilience, than all my advanced degrees put together. Dr. Eger has informed and inspired me more than any other role model in my practice of thirty years. This effervescent, brawny, octogenarian has more than a story to tell, a therapy to offer, a journey to guide; she brings us to a new way of being."

– U.S. Navy Capt. Robert Koffman, M.D., Former Director of Deployment Health/Psychological Health

"I would take Edie Eger on an Op with me any day."

– U.S. Navy SEAL Commander (Ret) Mark Divine, Bestselling author of The Way of the SEAL and Unbeatable Mind

“Where the author takes us is unimaginable...It’s what today’s 90-year-old Dr. Edith Eva Eger does after the war that astounds.”

– Florida Times-Union

“If you are a person suffering from despair or hopelessness, this is the perfect book for you. If you’re not suffering from despair, this book will help inspire you to seek out and bring hope to those who are.”

– Roanoke Times

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