Guesthouse for Ganesha

Written by Judith Teitelman
Review by Viviane Crystal

In 1923, Esther Grünspan settles in Köln from Poland.  She has been jilted on her wedding day, and the betrayal of love she experiences will haunt her for 23 more years.  During that time, her heart hardens as she survives with her superb seamstress skills.  She has a life-changing experience in which she meets Ganesha, a Hindu god who has the body of a human but the head of an elephant. He speaks to her as she is mesmerized by his penetrating eyes.  He walks with those in adversity and grief, moves them through obstacles, and promises peace when they are open to receiving it.  But Esther, who later calls herself Etta, gets married to someone she mistakenly thinks will protect her, and has three children.  She believes she is not capable of giving or receiving love. Then the time of the horrific Holocaust begins.

Etta does what she must, and they escape to other European countries.  Teitelman depicts the years of loss and betrayal with straightforward honesty, bringing the reader into realization about what it means to be a true survivor. Flickers of memories and heart-stirring emotions fill these pages while Etta forges on with stony resolution.  The negative effects on her children are suggested and may yet become reality. Eventually all of Etta’s family appear to her in her sleep, acknowledging the horrors of what they have endured.  Etta finds a healing process once she enters India’s embrace through a man (really Ganesha).  This is stunning historical fiction about a long journey from hellish darkness to divine light and peace, presented by a highly skilled writer.