Go, Went, Gone, Jenny Erpenbeck

I have always said owning a bookstore is the best. Here is an example of what I mean. Two long-time customers recommended the same book in the same week; I doubt they know each other and the book is not a hot new bestseller but it is, to quote James Wood of The New Yorker, “Magnificent." Richard, a retired classics professor, is not a particularly likable character. His encounter with a group of African asylum seekers staging a silent hunger strike in Alexanderplatz, in the former East Berlin, allows him to develop compassion and understanding. The reader simultaneously experiences this as well. Each character really becomes an individual person, not just “a refugee," and their expectations and behavior don’t always fit those of the benevolent institutions providing support. There are astonishing moments of insight for Richard and for us. Osarobo,who tries to understand a map, has traveled from Niger by way of Libya to Italy to Berlin, has never seen a map of any city or country on Earth. The striking yet deceptively simple writing mirrors the modest desires of the refugees.

 

My daughter Ronit recommends:
This Narrow Space: A Pediatric Oncologist, His Jewish, Muslim, and Christian Patients, and a Hospital in Jerusalem, Elisha Waldman

Motivating and encouraging are the only words to describe this first-hand memoir about an American doctor who spent several years in Jerusalem treating children with cancer. Having attended medical school in Israel, Elisha Waldman was offered an opportunity to work at Hadassah Medical Center, a dream job. His story, and those of the families he treated, is a story of accomplishment. He offers us a glimpse into a challenging world, one where politics sometimes interfered with care for the children he was treating and patients' religious beliefs and traditions sometimes made it difficult for him to provide appropriate care. Dr. Waldman learned to celebrate when he could and mourn with the families of his patients when their child’s life was cut short. The tale is inspirational and easy to read. No matter what your politics are, doctors like Dr. Waldman give hope for peace in the Middle East.

 

Estelle recommends:
The Bagel King, Andrew Larsen

This picture book is about Eli and his Zaida. Every Sunday morning Eli waits for his grandfather to deliver fresh, chewy, salty bagels from Merv's Bakery. Sometimes Eli is lucky enough to accompany Zaida. On these occasions, he gets a pickle from a big jar. Then one Sunday, Zaida phones Eli to tell him that he slipped on "schmutz" at Merv's and can't deliver bagels for two weeks. Not only is Eli disappointed, but so are Zaida's elderly gentleman neighbours. Eli visits him, bringing chicken soup and library books. One morning Eli surprises Zaida and his neighbors with fresh bagels from Merv's. Zaida is so proud that he declares Eli "The Bagel King." The book comes with a Yiddish glossary giving pronunciations and meanings to the words used in the story. The themes of the story are inter-generational family relationships, the importance of rituals, and neighbours. The colour illustrations by Sandy Nichols beautifully depict the characters' facial expressions and hand gestures. I highly recommend this book for ages 3-7.

Sandra Selects


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