Friday, June 14, 2013

Book Review: Far to Go by Alison Pick

An Intimate View of One Family in War Torn Czechoslovakia

Past and Present Collide 

I have read a lot of stories that take place during World War II and the Holocaust but this was my first time reading about Czechoslovakia specifically. I had no idea that due to a treaty, the country was just basically handed to Hitler. I also was not fully aware of the Kindertransport program where a British man made arrangements for trains full of children to escape this community to be placed on ships to England to live with gentile families.

This story comes together with alternating letters and narratives, both present and future to tell the story of one extended family and the struggles during that historic time, as well as the lasting impact those events caused long term. Pepik is a six year old boy who loves trains and is an average little boy until Hitler influences changes to what he knows which includes isolation in his community and school, the loss of his father's factory, and the need to try and escape the country. While Pepik is not necessarily aware of the full impact of what is going on, he can sense the stress and discourse in those he trusts, including his father Pavel, his mother Annaliese, and most importantly his nanny Marta.

In varying degrees, each adult family member knows that the situation will soon get worse and it is necessary to plan an escape. For Pavel, he becomes recommitted to his heritage as the persecution of those who are Jewish spreads. For Annaliese, she looks for ways for them to survive as her social network in the secular world crumbles. For Marta, she is worried about her displacement if the family does indeed escape and is devoted to this little boy who she serves as a surrogate mother. 

Through this story, we learn about their struggles and how the love for this one little boy unites them in so many ways as they focus on getting him out of the country. This leads to a chain of events beyond their control that will impact him into his adulthood.

While this story is a work of fiction the author really conducted intensive research and also pulled historical events from her own family to write this intensive tale. Recommend!

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