A Day of Small Beginnings
In early 20th century Poland, Itzik, a young Jewish boy, kills a Polish Catholic and runs to the graveyard for cover. There he wakens the spirit of Friedl, a childless woman, who vows to protect him. She helps him travel to Warsaw, then America, where he marries and has a family. Years later, his son Nathan and granddaughter Ellen return to Poland for both business and personal reasons, where they learn about what drove their Itzik to his new life and the reasons behind his rejection of his religion. Friedl’s spirit is present throughout, a linking element that helps Nathan and Ellen understand their faith and the past.
I found this book difficult to read at times because the paranormal component overwhelmed a little too much at the beginning and then later, because the son’s story moved quite slowly, with lots of dialogue that went over the same ground. Once the author moved into Ellen’s story it became easier, both because the characters were more sympathetic and because there was more action. In the end, the story came full circle, wrapping up in a satisfying way.
On a wholly positive note, the author’s setting is vibrant and detailed, taking the reader to Warsaw, Krakow and the countryside in between. Her voice is unique and at times the prose is a little passive, but at others quite poetic. Her descriptions of the sights, sounds and tastes of Poland, especially the architecture, music and the food work well for the most part, especially as they’re seen through the characters’ eyes as they come face to face with their heritage.
Readers of Eastern European ancestry will find this intriguing novel of special interest, but anyone searching for something different yet engrossing might want to add this title to their To Be Bought list.