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Between Gods by Alison Pick
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Between Gods

by Alison Pick

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I can certainly see why Pick has the accolades underher belt. This is a book that is hard to put down. Especially if you are addicted to stories of spiritual quests and long depressive sad lives to compare to your own fucked up life. If you are, and I certainly am, this is the perfect book for you.

Pick finds out her grandparents escaped from Czechoslovakia and pretended to be Christians. Her world and faith is rocked when she learns of her Jewish Heritage and that her relatives have died in Auschwitz. She chronicles her discovery and research and you can't begin to imagine her pain or confusion. I have visited Aushwitz and it is a sobering piece and place in history that forever haunts. I cannot begin to imagine a discovery such as Pick's and its subsequent impact. She becomes obsessed with the subject. She has nightmares.

Prone to depression, Pick seeks therapy while she explores Judaism and possible conversion. Is she genetically prone to depression from her father? Is she genetically prone to Judaism from her father? Masterfully, Pick chronicles her journey with an edge of mystery and anticipation to her writing. This is not a dry retelling of psychotherapy and Hebrew class but a lovely pattern of prose and research and history. I wanted to keep reading to find out if she stays with her fiance, if she converts, if she finally does the dishes. There is so much to her story and it's worth every page.

Provided by publisher ( )
1 vote hfineisen | Oct 28, 2015 |
Politics and religion, the two topics you should never bring up at the dinner table. It's impolite to discuss these two things because there are so many opinions, all very personal and deeply, often unconsciously, held. And arguing against or even just questioning someone else's choice is seen as confrontational or judgmental. Yet so many people these days are skeptics or searching for a spiritual fit for themselves or their families that they might in fact welcome a conversation to help them find their place. Author Alison Pick certainly needed to discuss her feelings and desires and questions after she uncovered the family secret of her paternal grandparents' shift to being publicly Canadian Christian from their beginning as Czech Jews fleeing in advance of Hitler's domination of Europe. She did ultimately have those needed conversations, documented in her emotional memoir, Between Gods, as she makes the choice to convert back to the Judaism of her beloved grandparents.

Starting with the newly posited idea that trauma and sadness can in fact be passed down genetically to descendants, Pick looks to uncover the roots of her dark and swelling depression. Her father has suffered over the years, as has her grandmother, but there's more to it than that. When she discovers the truth of her grandparents' lives, that they were Jewish and chose to leave their homeland as Hitler gained power but were forever tethered to the family members who didn't emigrate in time and died in the camps, she has found a focus or a cause for the smothering, debilitating depression she feels. In her inward searching, she starts to realize that she is incredibly drawn to many of the tenets and ideas of Judaism and in fact feels the closest kinship to those family members who are still Jewish. She's newly engaged, moved across the country, starting a new job, and writing a difficult novel when these feelings of displacement send her looking for a place of belonging and for her very identity.

She struggles as she tries to walk the searcher's path, agonizing over her feelings and carefully considering the choice she's making, its impact in her own life, and the way that her choice ripples into other loved ones' lives as well. Pick joins a conversion class in her quest to know deep down who she is. She does a lot of emotional digging and shares that with her readers. She includes bits from her therapy sessions, conversations with her fiance, her own internal musings, discussions with the Jewish acquaintances, later friends, who loom large in her life, and the painful questions and concerns from her sponsoring rabbi. Pick is honest about the road blocks she faced: the worry over converting if her fiance decided not to convert with her, her father's support of her but his own initial disinterest in the process, her hard-faced realization that Judaism is not defined by the Holocaust and how that changed her perspective, the shock that her own Jewish heritage didn't ease her way into the faith community, and her own uncertainties. Her journey to Judaism was long and not easy, in fact, the community's reluctance to embrace her solely because of her upcoming marriage to a non-Jew, their active pushing her away instead of welcoming her, was painful to witness. The struggle to become her own most authentic self was intense and her time lost "between Gods" was hard to witness but fascinating. Fans of memoir and religion, those who enjoyed Lauren Winner's Girl Meets God, a very different conversion memoir than this one, and those curious about others' spiritual decisions will appreciate this well written, soul searching, readable account of Pick's deeply personal and satisfying journey. ( )
  whitreidtan | Oct 26, 2015 |
Even though this book is a work of non-fiction, Pick adds a sense of literary style to her thoughts and emotions here. The fact that is able to open up about her feelings – especially her sadness and her frustrations – gives insight to those emotions and any reader can feel they are not alone with their angst.

http://pacifictranquility.wordpress.com/2014/10/04/depression-and-the-human-cond... ( )
  steven.buechler | Oct 5, 2014 |
This is my first book approval through Netgalley. I was very excited to get an advance copy of Pick's book and for an opportunity to read this book. I have been wanting to read Pick's Far to Go for a long time but have not yet gotten around to it. This book is a memoir that actually takes place while Pick was writing Far to Go. It is a very personal account of a few years in Pick's life that take us through her feelings about her family's experience with the holocaust and how it led her father's family to convert from Judaism to Christianity, Pick's own conversion back to Judaism, her ongoing battle with depression, and her relationship with her husband and the birth of her first child. It reads as a very honest and raw account of Pick's life and feelings, which at times is almost cringe making in its honesty. But Pick's voice and narrative are very compelling, and I found myself reading compulsively to the end. One of the most touching parts of the book is Pick's depiction of her relationship with her father, and how he responded to her interest and conversion to Judaism. I also really liked the end. It wasn't a resolution (which wouldn't make sense given that it's a memoir that takes when Pick is in her early 30s.) But Pick managed to end on a hopeful note without being glib or saccharine. Now I definitely want to move on to reading Far to Go, and will be curious to read other books by Pick in the future. ( )
1 vote Eesil | Sep 21, 2014 |
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Epigraph
When I looked for light, then came darkness.
—Job 30: 26
Stand by the roads and consider; inquire about ancient paths: which way is good? Travel it and find rest for  your soul.
—Jeremiah 6:16
Dedication
For Ayla and for Lynn
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Pain disappears.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 038567788X, Hardcover)

From the Man Booker-nominated author of the novel Far to Go and one of our most talented young writers comes an unflinching, moving and unforgettable memoir about family secrets and the rediscovered past.
     Alison Pick was born in the 1970s and raised in a supportive, loving family. She grew up laughing with her sister and cousins, and doting on her grandparents. Then as a teenager, Alison made a discovery that instantly changed her understanding of her family, and her vision for her own life, forever. She learned that her Pick grandparents, who had escaped from the Czech Republic during WWII, were Jewish--and that most of this side of the family had died in concentration camps. She also discovered that her own father had not known of this history until, in his twenties, he had a chance encounter with an old family friend--and then he, too, had kept the secret from Alison and her sister.
    In her early thirties, engaged to be married to her longtime boyfriend but struggling with a crippling depression, Alison slowly but doggedly began to research and uncover her Jewish heritage. Eventually she came to realize that her true path forward was to reclaim her history and indentity as a Jew. But even then, one seemingly insurmountable problem remained: her mother wasn't Jewish, so technically Alison wasn't either. In this by times raw, by times sublime memoir, Alison recounts her struggle with the meaning of her faith, her journey to convert to Judaism, her battle with depression, and her path towards facing and accepting the past and embracing the future--including starting a new family of her own. This is her unusual and gripping story, told in crystalline prose and with all the nuance and drama of a novel, but illuminated with heartbreaking insight into the very real lives of the dead, and hard-won hope for the lives of all those who carry on after.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:09 -0400)

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