Between Gods: A Memoir

  • Review
By – May 18, 2015

Ali­son Pick’s pow­er­ful mem­oir takes read­ers on a high­ly relat­able and enjoy­able jour­ney. Pick is a poet and a nov­el­ist, the author of the best­seller Far to Go. Her research for this nov­el about the Holo­caust inspired Ali­son to con­vert to Judaism, which she writes about in Between Gods, in which she weaves togeth­er faith, fam­i­ly, and Jew­ish history.

This book is dif­fer­ent from oth­er sto­ries about redis­cov­er­ing faith, since Pick was half-Jew­ish. In her attempt to return to her Jew­ish roots, she felt aban­doned and at odds with Toronto’s Con­ser­v­a­tive rab­bis, who held fast to Jew­ish law. Since her moth­er was not Jew­ish, tech­ni­cal­ly Pick was not, either, so she had to go through the con­ver­sion process in order to be rec­og­nized as a Jew by her community.

Read­ers are tak­en on a roller coast­er ride of emo­tions, at times cry­ing and laugh­ing with Pick as she tells her sad, trag­ic, and ulti­mate­ly uplift­ing jour­ney. What makes this book rel­e­vant to today’s issues is Pick’s descrip­tions of the Jews of the Holo­caust era who strug­gled while retreat­ing, deny­ing, and ignor­ing the dan­gers. She learned that some of her rel­a­tives escaped from the Czech Repub­lic dur­ing World War II, while oth­ers died in con­cen­tra­tion camps. She also dis­cov­ered that her own father had not known of this his­to­ry until he was in his twen­ties. When I learned my Dad was Jew­ish, I assumed I could be, too, if I want­ed[…] but I might not be able to con­vert, giv­en that my fiancé wasn’t Jew­ish, I expe­ri­enced it as a kind of rejec­tion,” Pick writes. Because the Holo­caust is my access point it’s tak­ing a while for me to learn the joy. And in some ways I don’t feel very welcome.”

The book is most pow­er­ful when both Pick and her father dis­cov­er their fam­i­lies past and begin to iden­ti­fy with their Jew­ish faith. The his­to­ry of her fam­i­ly, from their time in Czecho­slo­va­kia, to Auschwitz, then to Cana­da is heart wrench­ing. She learned how her father’s side of the fam­i­ly attempt­ed to ignore and dis­miss their Jew­ish back­ground while they posed as Chris­tians when they attend­ed an Angli­can Church and ate ham on Christmas.

The main por­tion of the book relates how Pick con­nect­ed with her Jew­ish iden­ti­ty through her rela­tion­ships with her fiancé, her dad, and her new­found Jew­ish friends. She trav­els with her fiancé, Degan, through Europe vis­it­ing fam­i­ly sites, Auschwitz, and the Holo­caust memo­r­i­al in Prague. The book also explores her strug­gles to fin­ish a nov­el based dur­ing the Holo­caust, to final­ly mar­ry Degan after sev­en years togeth­er, los­ing a baby to a mis­car­riage, and going through anoth­er tur­bu­lent pregnancy.

Between Gods is a pow­er­ful book in which the author reclaims the her­itage her grand­par­ents had aban­doned. Read­ers will not want to put the book down: this mem­oir is a beau­ti­ful­ly woven sto­ry of fam­i­ly, part­ner­ship, reli­gion, love, and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion as its author con­nects her present life to the past.

Elise Coop­er lives in Los Ange­les and has writ­ten numer­ous nation­al secu­ri­ty arti­cles sup­port­ing Israel. She writes book reviews and Q and A’s for many dif­fer­ent out­lets includ­ing the Mil­i­tary Press. She has had the plea­sure to inter­view best­selling authors from many dif­fer­ent genres.

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