The life of Muriel Gardiner Buttinger really began, before her birth, with her grandfathers who developed the meat packing industry in Chicago. Gus Swift and Nelson Morris developed an empire which made them very rich men. It was their fortunes that enabled her to live the life she chose. Although her father was Jewish, she was not raised in the Jewish faith. Religion was not a major issue to either her mother or her father. It was only during the time of Hitler's rise to power and enactment of the Nuremberg Laws against the Jews, that she became aware of and recognized her Jewish background.
At an early age, because of her relationship with her governess and a maid, she learned of the differences between the rich and poor. A sensitive girl, she was bothered by the injustice and she spent her life trying, in some fashion, to correct these circumstances wherever she witnessed them. She grew up to be a Socialist and renouncing her family fortune, she traveled to Europe, eventually settling in Vienna. She had one child, Connie, and two marriages ending in divorce, with the third and final one, being a marriage to the man she thought was the true love of her life, Joe Buttinger. This was no small feat since Muriel seemed to fall in an out of love with great frequency. She was in psychoanalysis, for years, with protégés of Freud and worked tirelessly toward become a psychoanalyst herself, studying medicine at the University of Vienna.
I did not feel the book was riveting but I found it extremely interesting to learn of someone I knew little about who was a true heroine. She was a special woman, a free thinker who marched to the beat of her own drummer and was perhaps a “saint among women”, except for her odd sense of morality, which was uncommon in her day. She was totally unselfish, non judgmental and compassionate. She felt the pain and need of others and provided for them whenever, wherever and however she could. A free spirit, she believed in free love and her life was guided by her enduring capacity to love and embrace others, sympathizing with their plight, empathizing with their suffering and providing for the needs of those less fortunate. I gave the book four stars because it was well written and I think it is important that her story be heard to shed further light on that awful period of history.
I did think, that although for much of her life Muriel gave up a luxurious lifestyle and chose to live as normally as most people, it is important to also note that had she not been an heiress to an enormous fortune, she would not have had the luxury to raise a child alone, be a long time student, study medicine while at the same time becoming an activist in Socialist organizations, or possibly even do the clandestine heroic work she did, undercover, during the Nazi regime. She used her fortune to save lives and put her own life at risk in order to do it, because her capacity to care, share and love was endless. Even at the end of her life, when she learned that she was dying, she did it with dignity. She made sure to provide for the continued needs of those she was helping and made sure that her foundation would continue to work toward world peace, justice, civil rights, etc., the causes she had spent her whole life working towards. Muriel seemed childlike in many ways; i thought she remained an eternal "idealist".