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Two Slices of Bread by Ingrid Coles


Two Slices of Bread is a remarkable, moving memoir. Three months after Ingrid Coles was born in Java, she and her family were incarcerated in a Japanese concentration camp for three years. Her father, aged only 43, died in a prison camp and her 6-year-old brother died of starvation and pneumonia en route to Holland after the family was liberated during the Indonesian War of Independence.


Life was difficult for Ingrid and her three siblings when they arrived in the Netherlands, dealing with her mother’s post-traumatic stress and their own experiences during the war. Ingrid was orphaned at age 16 and decided to come to New Zealand to begin a nursing career – building a new life with courage and fortitude.


If you wonder where the title ‘Two Slices of Bread’ comes from, it comes from being offered another slice of bread by her uncle when she was a young child in Holland. She had never experienced such a thing before, while imprisoned in the Japanese camp the family’s plight had been starvation, not ‘two slices of bread.’


Ingrid’s family suffered dreadfully, and the accounts of the time in the prison camp are hard to read as their captors were so cruel. And Ingrid doesn’t shy away from revealing the physiological and ongoing physical health challenges her family faced after being liberated. But the extraordinary aspect of this memoir is how Ingrid has rebuilt her life and how she has gone on to be productive and happy in her adopted land, even learning to forgive the people who imprisoned her and her family. This memoir goes from heartache to triumph and is highly recommended. It is a captivating, inspiring book of an immigrant building a new life in New Zealand.


Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Wild Side Publishing, RRP $39.99

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