Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Book Review: 'Between Gods' by Alison Pick

Alison Pick is a Canadian poet and novelist. Her father is Jewish; her mother is not. Her Czech-born great-grandparents, Oskar and Marianne, died in the Holocaust; her father’s parents obtained visas and moved to Canada, where they chose to live as Christians. Ironically, her grandfather, Jan Pick, once declared that “he wouldn’t convert to Christianity if he was the last Jew on earth.” In “Between Gods,” Alison writes about her clinical depression; her relationship with her devoted partner, Degan Davis; and her yearning to explore her Jewish heritage. With a rabbi’s guidance, Alison embarks on a course of study. She learns a bit of Hebrew, familiarizes herself with Jewish laws and customs, and considers undergoing ritual conversion. Her long and challenging journey will test the strength of her bond with her parents and fiancĂ©.

Although from the age of eleven, Alison knew on some level that her father was Jewish, she did not comprehend what this might mean until two decades later. After all, her parents brought her to their Anglican church once or twice a month and did not discuss Judaism. When she begins to read extensively about Jewish history and the Holocaust, attends synagogue services, and enjoys Sabbath meals, Passover Seders, and other celebrations, Alison realizes how much she longs for a connection to her father’s discarded religion.

Pick is a candid and articulate writer, but the mountain of detail that she shares about her thoughts, feelings, and activities is overwhelming. After slogging through one too many repetitious and slow-moving passages, one is tempted to say, “We get it. Please move on.” On the other hand, readers who have struggled with questions of identity and spirituality will relate to Alison Pick’s “visceral desire to reclaim what’s been lost,” and applaud her determination to find the peace of mind that had eluded her for so many years.

Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right

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