Far To Go

Written by Alison Pick
Review by Helene Williams

In 1938, Czechoslovakia is in crisis, as is all of Europe, but at the home of Pavel and Anneliese Bauer in a small Bohemian town, care is taken to assure that everything appears normal. Pavel is a successful factory owner and Czech nationalist who is aware of the political and military rumblings but who is also sure that as an assimilated Jew he and his family are not in any danger. His wife continues to paint her nails, smoke cigarettes, and visit her friends. Marta, the nanny, dotes on young Pepik as he plays with his toy train and soldiers under the table. Marta also continues to sneak out of the Bauer home at night to see Ernst, the married foreman at Pavel’s factory, even after she figures out that Ernst is pro-Nazi and planning to undermine the Bauers.

Only after the factory is seized, neighbors disappear, and observant Jews are beaten in the street does Pavel act, and it is then that the reader sees the true feelings and alliances of the characters. Alison Pick’s quiet, spare prose creates a tension reflecting the enormity of the events playing out both in the world and on the local playground. A second narrative runs throughout the novel, in which the present-day protagonist seeks to help those who survived the war, all the while looking for closure around her own wartime losses. The story, inspired by Pick’s family history, brings to life the tragedy of betrayal, as well as the hope of love, through multiple generations.