Full Harvest

Written by Etka Gitel Schwartz
Review by Steve Donoghue

Etka Gitel Schwartz originally published the stories that comprise Full Harvest in the pages of Binah magazine; they are here presented in a hefty hardcover volume with 250 pages of supplementary editorial material added, fleshing out the actual history behind her tale of the Jewish immigrant experience on the plains of North Dakota. But for her many fans and for the new readers this richly rewarding book deserves, it is the fiction that will be the main attraction.

Scwhartz’s story centers around eighteen year-old Gella Drozdinski, who travels half-way around the world at her parents’ behest in order to reach America (a land where, they hope, she will have at least ‘some measure of control over her own existence’) and become the bride of a young man named Sam Rvorsky in a fly-speck town on the American high plains. Her parents have only slightly begun to know Sam through correspondence, and Gella herself hopes that he will be kind. The two are married and face the rigors of wilderness life, which Schwartz describes in gripping detail – the crops are tenuous, the winters are legendarily terrible, and illness and death always threaten.

As Gella adapts (and as she and Sam come to love each other), the narrative widens to include deeper themes of family and faith, all of it set against a severe but beautifully described natural background. Although the chapters still display something of their episodic origin, readers interested in the immigrant experience will find all of this both engrossing and entertaining. Recommended.