The Far Side of the Sky
Author Daniel Kalla, an ER physician in Vancouver, B.C., drew upon his own family’s heritage to write this novel of World War II. The book begins in 1938 in Vienna, where Dr. Franz Adler, a secular Jew and widowed surgeon, lives with his young daughter. When Nazis murder Adler’s brother on Kristallnacht, he realizes that the nightmare isn’t diminishing, and he must get his child to safety. Along with his now widowed sister-in-law, Esther, and a gay artist friend, the four manage to book and pay for tickets to China. In the meantime, in Shanghai, “Sunny” Mah, a Eurasian nurse whose father is a physician (and both Sunny and her father know that it’s only the era’s prejudice that is keeping Sunny from being a physician herself) ministers to the Jewish refugee community, which will soon be 20,000 strong. Sunny and Adler are immediately attracted to one another, but their romance is far from assured. Esther and her new love have a slightly easier time of it.
I ate up this novel. I’d just finished a couple of more literary (aka time-consuming) books, and I was ready for something that would just sweep me along. Kalla, author of several other novels that mix medicine and romance, has an easy way with words that almost invisibly puts you into the story—and it’s a good story. What a relief to read a book about European Jews during World War II where tens of thousands of Jews have escaped and are mostly in the same boat as everyone else. The Jewish refugees who were fortunate enough to make it to Shanghai had to be brave and to give up all but the most important parts of themselves. In return, most of them survived the war. Recommended.