Chas­ing Echoes

Dan Gold­man, George Schall (illus.)

  • Review
By – February 24, 2020

In a par­tic­u­lar jar­ring sequence of events found in Dan Gold­man and George Schall’s graph­ic nov­el, Chas­ing Echoes, the Bloom fam­i­ly attends an Elton John con­cert. The rain is pour­ing down like Noah’s Ark redux. The Blooms are exhaust­ed, both phys­i­cal­ly and emo­tion­al­ly. They are in Poland, redis­cov­er­ing their shared fam­i­ly his­to­ry that was near­ly destroyed by the Holo­caust. Elton sings one of his sig­na­ture tunes, while the fam­i­ly lets out a cathar­tic yelp of joy. They had just come from a tour of Auschwitz.

Chas­ing Echoes is filled with moments of great jux­ta­po­si­tion. It’s a sto­ry about a Jew­ish fam­i­ly find­ing increas­ing unease with con­tem­po­rary life, yet search­ing for the truth of the past. It’s about how the black sheep of the fam­i­ly uses her wits to con­front her deep­est fears. And, it’s a sto­ry about how Jew­ish iden­ti­ty, no mat­ter how it’s expressed, doesn’t define one’s des­tiny; rather, it’s the con­nec­tion between a fam­i­ly — their words, their deeds, their blood, their souls — and how their bond grows through shared experience.

Our sto­ry begins by focus­ing on Phoenix-based Mal­ka Solomon, the pre­vi­ous­ly named black sheep of the fam­i­ly. She’s a sin­gle mom, sloven­ly, and down on her luck. She’s the fam­i­ly his­to­ri­an and the keep­er of the fam­i­ly tree. Her life is at the low­est point when the book begins, but as read­ers learn more about her and the rela­tion­ship she has to the large fam­i­ly, her gen­er­al dis­po­si­tion seems to improve sub­stan­tial­ly. One of the most remark­able tonal qual­i­ties of Chas­ing Echoes is Goldman’s mix of dark­ness with opti­mism. His char­ac­ters expe­ri­ence great chal­lenges, often with each oth­er, but also with­in them­selves. There are a lot of com­pli­cat­ed feel­ings that are often expressed only with a pass­ing look. Yet, despite any ini­tial feel­ings of uneasi­ness, the Bloom family’s trip to the Old Coun­try pro­vides them the per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty to open their hearts and let old wounds heal; it’s almost as if they are a micro­cosm of the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty in its diverse entirety.

What pro­pels the sto­ry for­ward, besides Goldman’s atten­tive writ­ing, is Schall’s art­work, which is stun­ning. In brief, his art is clean yet expres­sive. Every face is unique, every set piece lov­ing­ly ren­dered. The effec­tive­ness of Schall’s art, though, is the way in which there is not a piece of real estate on the page that’s wast­ed. Each pan­el, each sequence, each turn of the page is filled with mean­ing. Comics, more than prob­a­bly any oth­er medi­um, are best at sub­vert­ing pure lin­ear nar­ra­tive and the cre­ative team uses this tech­nique to their advan­tage. The results are tru­ly moving.

Fam­i­ly dys­func­tion and the Holo­caust is not an unheard-of trope in comics. Heck, it was the basis of the first com­ic to ever win the Pulitzer Prize. But, Chas­ing Echoes is as much a book about the lega­cy of the Holo­caust and its effect on a fam­i­ly as it is about a con­tem­po­rary explo­ration of Jew­ish iden­ti­ty in a world where iden­ti­ty is ques­tioned every­where. Gold­man and Schall have cre­at­ed an emo­tion­al, impres­sive sto­ry. Chas­ing Echoes is a remark­able book that con­nects the past and present effort­less­ly, invit­ing read­ers on a heart-wrench­ing and, ulti­mate­ly, sat­is­fy­ing jour­ney of a family’s rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with his­to­ry and themselves.

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