Between Gods invites us to re-examine our beliefs and the extent to which they define us.
Growing up in a tight-knit Christian family, Alison Pick went to church regularly. But as a teenager, she discovered a remarkable family secret: her paternal grandparents fled from the Czech Republic at the start of WWII because they were Jewish. Tragically, other family members who hesitated to emigrate were sent to Auschwitz.
Haunted by the Holocaust, Alison's grandparents established themselves in their new lives as Christians. Not even Alison's father knew of his parents' past until he visited the Jewish cemetery in Prague as an adult. This atmosphere of shame and secrecy haunted Alison's journey into adulthood.
Drowning in a sense of emptiness, she eventually came to realize that her true path forward lay in reclaiming her history and identity as a Jew, and she began attending conversion classes. But the process was far from easy as old wounds were opened, and all of her relationships were tested.
It has been my experience that family secrets kept hidden in our lives eventually work their way back to the surface, whether we welcome them or not. What was for Alison a search for the truth of her heritage became a search for her own sense of self.
Given the political climate in Europe at the time, especially the areas under Nazi control, who amongst us can positively state that they would not have made the same choice as Alison's paternal grandparents. And they hid the secret of their true faith well - even their own son did not know until he became an adult.
In a way I an understand the party line of the Jewish establishment encountered by Alison during her search. All families have challenges to and opportunities for closeness, but multi-faith families encounter some special issues that can help or hurt. This is not to say that two people belonging to different faiths cannot work, but the differences have to be mutually and forever respected.
On the other hand, it is hard for me to imagine a religion not welcoming a new adherent, even if that person's other family members do not toe the same line. My own denomination advises against being 'unequally yoked', but at the same time talks about the benefits of being a good example. For example, my husband calls the NFL season 'church season', tongue in cheek, and I suppose you could say he adheres to the Church of the Dallas Cowboys. I guess I have more work to do on being an better example, eh?
I found Alison's memoir, titled Between Gods, to be an incredibly touching tale. Even though I am not Jewish, I respect this ancient faith, and my heart broke with her trials and soared with her successes on her journey.
If you have ever struggled to find or determine your identity (and which of us hasn't really), if you can rejoice in the success of others, if you value the strength it takes to share your story (and not just the pretty bits), put this book on your shelf. Then take it off your shelf...and read it.
Alison Pick was the Bronwen Wallace Award winner for the most promising writer under thirty-five in Canada. Her first novel is The Sweet Edge, and her second novel, the bestseller Far to Go, was nominated for the Man Booker Prize, won the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Fiction, and was named a "Top 10 of 2010" book by the Toronto Star. Between Gods, named a "Best Book" by both the Globe and Mail and CBC, has been nominated for the prestigious BC National Award for Nonfiction.
I am pleased and honored to be kicking off the tour today. The rest of the schedule can be accessed by clicking on the logo just above. You can also find out how to apply to become a tour host yourself!
(Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)