Let me start by point out that I rarely read memoirs. I find them self-indulgent and narcissistic. However, if there is one thing that can make me want to read a book, it is the promise of a Jewish theme, and Between Gods is most definitely about Judaism.
“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.”
This memoir definitely kept me interested and I found the writer to be likeable while also imperfect. Pick deals with depression, and her obsession over what happened to her ancestors during the Holocaust plays a part in her sadness. However, she soon realizes that connecting with the religion that her grandparents denied is helpful in becoming the person that she wants to be. Putting aside the fact that there are different varieties of Judaism and that some of the ways that Pick described observing Judaism are not quite ‘kosher,’ I enjoyed reading about how she grounded herself in the holidays and rituals as she learned more about the religion. Even though Pick’s father is Jewish, she wanted to officially convert – traditional Judaism is only passed along through the mother, while less traditional Judaism does accept patrilineal descent. The conversion classes were portrayed as rather difficult, as the teacher was not a very good teacher, and the rabbi working with Pick wanted a commitment from her fiancé as well. He was very supportive to Pick, but he did not feel the urge to convert along with her. Although there was difficulty and even backlash from her family, Pick worked towards the goal of conversion and her writing portrayed the feelings and emotions that went along with her journey.
I also really like the title of the book. It’s like when someone asks a person about his or her occupation who has been laid off but is looking for work and he answers that he is between jobs. While Pick is on her journey, she is Between Gods.
What have you been reading lately?