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.
About the author
Alison Pick's most recent novel is Far to Go, winner of the Canadian Jewish Book Award for fiction and nominated for the Man Booker Prize. Rights have been sold internationally and the book has been optioned for film. Pick was the 2002 Bronwen Wallace Award winner for most promising unpublished writer under 35 in Canada. She has published one other novel, The Sweet Edge, and two poetry collections, The Dream World and Question & Answer. She is currently on the Faculty of the Humber School for Writers and the Banff Centre for the Arts. Her memoir Between Gods, from which this essay is loosely excerpted, is forthcoming from Doubleday in 2014.
A Globe and Mail Best Book of 2014
“Between Gods, Alison Pick’s memoir, is about a courageous and heart-opening journey, exquisitely told.”
“I became addicted to Alison Pick’s Between Gods. Pick manages to grab what might be the most overwritten topic in contemporary memoir—finding one’s spiritual self; in Pick’s case, reclaiming Jewish roots—and do something incredibly beautiful, original and poetic with it. She takes the sophisticated, erudite high road at every turn, but holds your hand like a true friend for the duration of the journey.”
—Mireille Silcoff, author of Chez L’arabe (qtd. in The Globe and Mail)
“Between Gods is a deeply personal and candid account of how Pick came to know she was destined to return to her father’s family’s abandoned Judaism, and of the obstacle-filled road she took to get there.”
?The Times of Israel
“An intense exploration. . . . We watch [Pick] valiantly, indefatigably confront images and imaginations of her pasts, presents and futures in intense, moving ways. . . . Pick's outlines of the depths of her depressions and fears are earnest and heart-rending.”
—Winnipeg Free Press
“Pick’s book is a well written and sympathetic foray into the politics of personal identity. . . . Highly readable and . . . moving.”
—The London Free Press
“A story of religious rebirth, and the attendant—if not directly associated—suffering that rebirth entails. . . . Between Gods is a sometimes wincingly honest diary, filled with malaise and dread vulnerability. But within the frame of the book, Pick’s intelligence and intent to observe her moral possibilities remain apparent. . . . The gift, the empathy, of Pick’s memoir comes in her active presence, even as she admits that she is no longer between those particular gods—Christian, Jewish, or otherwise. They are the forces that feel greater than us, that loom on all sides and draw out our silhouettes, even within the shadows they cast.”
—The Globe and Mail
“A courageous and heart-opening journey, exquisitely told. . . . There are many aspects to the uncovering of this particular family history that are heartbreaking and horrific. Still, it’s a happy story . . . like the Jewish wedding ceremony when the groom steps on a glass and breaks it as a symbol of joy as well as all it took to get there.”
—The Vancouver Sun
“A personable and surprisingly dramatic telling of the author’s transformation and spiritual journey ‘back’ to her Jewish roots. . . . How awesome that Pick’s fateful treading of a spiritual path to Judaism ultimately has the power to transform future generations and so much more than herself.”
—The Canadian Jewish News“
Pick is a rare bird: an accomplished poet who also writes lucid prose. . . . [Her] writing ability and keen intellect ensure she’s able to navigate such delicate, complex subject matter with compassion and clarity. Although her material is dark, Pick never veers into self-pity. Her matter-of-fact tone is underscored by respect and reverence. She never trivializes her losses yet she refuses to be undone by them either. . . . Pick chooses to respect the past but live in the present. Life wins out over depression and loss. And that’s a hard-won lesson worth capturing and disseminating.”
“Pick is a masterful writer. . . . Between Gods . . . brought me to tears.” —Carrie Snyder, The Globe and Mail“An unflinching, courageous memoir that delves deep into her own recently uncovered Jewish heritage. . . . The author’s skill at storytelling and knack for cliché-free description are undeniable. Sentences are lean, evocative, and raw with detail. She expertly builds, diffuses, and rebuilds tension, and . . . retains the nuanced complexities of real life.”
—Quill & Quire
“Toronto poet and novelist Alison Pick’s story of real life—the undeniable fates of the dead, and the hard-won hope of the living—illuminates her powerful new memoir, Between Gods.”
“Between Gods is that rare memoir that I couldn't put down; brilliantly well written, Pick's search for her Jewish roots is a deeply felt search for self, a profoundly moving journey of discovery of family history and the deep-seeded grief silently passed through generations. Pick's memoir is a beautifully woven story of family, partnership, love and reconciliation, not just with one’s past but with oneself.”
“Between Gods is a quietly moving exploration on belonging and self-discovery.”
—CBC Arts Online
“Alison Pick is an old soul, and a brave one. Between Gods stands out as the remarkable quest of a young woman determined to uncover her Jewish identity, and with it, family secrets long buried. . . . Intimate, cinematic and raw, it’s a provocative memoir that simmers with its own brand of suspense as Pick navigates the thorny passage between religions. . . . A powerful and haunting meditation on the roads – both real and imagined - that wind endlessly between past and present.”
—Carolyn Abraham, author of The Juggler’s Children
Other titles by Alison Pick
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