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Between Gods: A Memoir

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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 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 identity 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.


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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 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 identity 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.

30 review for Between Gods: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    At a time of transition – preparing for her wedding and finishing her first novel, set during the Holocaust – the author decided to convert to Judaism, the faith of her father’s Czech family. There are so many things going on in this sensitive and engrossing memoir: depression, her family’s Holocaust history, her conversion, career struggles, moving to Toronto, adjusting to marriage, and then pregnancy and motherhood following soon after – leading full circle to a time of postpartum depression. At a time of transition – preparing for her wedding and finishing her first novel, set during the Holocaust – the author decided to convert to Judaism, the faith of her father’s Czech family. There are so many things going on in this sensitive and engrossing memoir: depression, her family’s Holocaust history, her conversion, career struggles, moving to Toronto, adjusting to marriage, and then pregnancy and motherhood following soon after – leading full circle to a time of postpartum depression. That said, this book is exactly what you want from a memoir: it vividly depicts a time of tremendous change, after which the subject is still somehow the same person, or perhaps more herself than ever. See my full review at The Bookbag.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alison Baxter

    As a convert to Judaism, I was very interested in reading this book. My aversion to the author is so great that I simply cannot finish it. Whining, privileged, cloying, vain..................not someone I would want to know in a memoir or otherwise.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kitty B

    This beautiful memoir gracefully touches on so many heavy and deep subjects; depression, conversion to Judaism, familial relationships, cultural and religious heritage, the Holocaust, motherhood.... it’s themes are as complex as life itself. This is a memoir borne from a period of introspection and personal conflict in the face of the burdensome conversion road she sets upon. But as Pick’s therapist tells her, ‘there is a time for contemplating life and a time for living it’. I think this book a This beautiful memoir gracefully touches on so many heavy and deep subjects; depression, conversion to Judaism, familial relationships, cultural and religious heritage, the Holocaust, motherhood.... it’s themes are as complex as life itself. This is a memoir borne from a period of introspection and personal conflict in the face of the burdensome conversion road she sets upon. But as Pick’s therapist tells her, ‘there is a time for contemplating life and a time for living it’. I think this book achieves that balance and while Pick creates a profoundly spiritual and moving story of her yearning for belonging and Jewish identity it is against the backdrop of mundane detail of everyday life. As in her other work, Pick is a master of language and prose that is pure reading pleasure.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ally

    A really beautiful memoir about depression and finding yourself through religion. Alison Pick writes so beautifully and creatively that you can't help but live along with her, through her depressions, troubles during pregnancy, and journey toward finding herself. For someone who has never been very religious, I'm always very interested in others' religious journeys, and Alison tells a heart-wrenching tale about her journey toward Judaism and how her family's past has called to her all her life. A really beautiful memoir about depression and finding yourself through religion. Alison Pick writes so beautifully and creatively that you can't help but live along with her, through her depressions, troubles during pregnancy, and journey toward finding herself. For someone who has never been very religious, I'm always very interested in others' religious journeys, and Alison tells a heart-wrenching tale about her journey toward Judaism and how her family's past has called to her all her life. The history of her family, from their time in Czechoslovakia to Auschwitz to Canada is terrifying and somewhat surreal. If you enjoy memoirs with a World War Two background, religious focus, and depression underlying it all, this one is for you.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Heather Fineisen

    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 Aus 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

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    There are many levels on which the reader can read and appreciate Pick's memoir, Between Gods. 1) As a psychological memoir, detailing the ups-and-downs of depression, particularly in relation to the spiritual life of humans. 2) As a part of the Shoah narrative. 3) As a Jewish book, detailing the choices of a convert and connection with various beliefs and practices. Between Gods very much addresses the first two issues so well, I'd like to see it used in classrooms where depression and/or the Shoah There are many levels on which the reader can read and appreciate Pick's memoir, Between Gods. 1) As a psychological memoir, detailing the ups-and-downs of depression, particularly in relation to the spiritual life of humans. 2) As a part of the Shoah narrative. 3) As a Jewish book, detailing the choices of a convert and connection with various beliefs and practices. Between Gods very much addresses the first two issues so well, I'd like to see it used in classrooms where depression and/or the Shoah are discussed. When Pick describes the heaviness, the indecisiveness, the confusion of mild-to-moderate depression, her images really resound with me, recalling a year of depression in my early twenties and several blue periods I've experienced since then. She also describes pregnancy loss and PPD, which I think many readers will find therapeutic. These topics are unfortunately rarely discussed, and to see a first-hand account handled with sensitivity destigmatizes them and validates the emotions who have shared those experiences. Pick's description of the Holocaust's aftermath, and how it continues to affect the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of survivors, also touched on things friends and colleagues have shared with me, adding depth and complexity to my understanding of their heritage. At first, I found Pick's accounts of visits to her psychologist to be odd, but as the memoir progressed, Charlotte (her therapist) adds a couple profound insights the really illuminated things. As someone who is Orthodox, I had a little more trouble with the book from a religious perspective. I had to set aside several of my opinions on issues Pick brings up - most pertinent is the overly-simplified explanation of why Conservative and Orthodox Jews rely on matrilineal decent. Nonetheless, the way hashgacha pratis (divine intervention in the guise of "coincidence" which is anything but coincidental) weaves throughout her tale and the beautiful descriptions of Shabbos and how she and her partner connect to certain practices and ideas really spoke to me. I think they will speak to any person of faith (probably, of any faith). The end of the book mentions that certain events and people were "adjusted." There are definitely reasons to question this practice in memoir-writing, as it has been much abused. I don't get that sense here. Indeed, I was comforted by the fact that a couple of the "characters" Pick presents us with don't have their real names in the text. They don't always show up very sympathetically, and I think that using different names and circumstances for them in the book probably allowed Pick to be MORE honest about their words and behavior, while maintaining these people's privacy. This is just my opinion. Highly recommended. Due to two "bad" words, as well as (more importantly) details about Pick's love life and obstetric health (which are handled tastefully, but honestly), I would not recommend the book to readers under 18, at least.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Patty

    I will put a quote here when the book is published I seem to have run the gamut on Christianity over these past few months. I have read a book about grace, one about people who are leaving the church even though they are still believers, another about Christians who are examining the way they see the Bible, and then a book about evangelicals who are trying to change the more conservative wing of Christianity. I read often about my faith, but I have been especially eclectic lately. Which brings me I will put a quote here when the book is published I seem to have run the gamut on Christianity over these past few months. I have read a book about grace, one about people who are leaving the church even though they are still believers, another about Christians who are examining the way they see the Bible, and then a book about evangelicals who are trying to change the more conservative wing of Christianity. I read often about my faith, but I have been especially eclectic lately. Which brings me to Between Gods. Alison Pick was raised as a Christian, but it turns out that her paternal grandparents were Jewish and barely got out of Europe with their lives during World War II. Once in Canada, knowing that relatives had been taken to the concentration camps, Pick’s family became Episcopalians. So Pick starts her life being raised as a Christian. Pick feels drawn back to her family’s ancestral faith. This memoir is about her journey to her “conversion” to Judaism. It was a long, intense struggle for Pick and I found it fascinating. I grew up among both Jews and Christians, but I have never known anyone who converted from one religion to the other. I would not have guessed that changing your faith could be so complicated. I know from my class on Women and Judaism that Jews do not encourage conversion. However, given Pick’s family history, I would have thought that the rabbis and teachers that Pick talks to would have been glad to have someone return to their faith. I think most Christian denominations would have welcomed such a “lost sheep” with open arms. Pick is a poet and has written a novel about the Holocaust. Her writing is beautiful. During her period of being “between Gods” there were many other changes happening in her life. She writes with clarity and attention to detail so that the reader can see the transformation that happens to her life while she is converting. I don’t know what made me pick this book through the Edelweiss program. However, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I have learned a great deal about Pick’s life and I have been able to think about how my life would change if I lived in different circumstances. If you have any interest in women’s lives or in stories from the Holocaust, try this memoir. If you are Jewish or interested in Judaism, I strongly recommend this story to you. If you are a reader like me, who wants to inhabit new and different worlds, then you too may want to pick this up when it is published in this country. I believe that Pick’s story is unusual and well told. Thank you to Edelweiss and Harper Perennial.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Thank you, Random House and GoodReads for the free copy! Between Gods is the first thing I've read by Alison Pick, and it won't be the last. Her writing style is vivid, her descriptions are beautiful, and I know now that I'm going to have to read her novels and poetry. What really sticks in my mind are the little moments she included to characterize the people she writes about. The way her father reacted when he watches sad movies, for example, said so much about him. And the same goes for Alison h Thank you, Random House and GoodReads for the free copy! Between Gods is the first thing I've read by Alison Pick, and it won't be the last. Her writing style is vivid, her descriptions are beautiful, and I know now that I'm going to have to read her novels and poetry. What really sticks in my mind are the little moments she included to characterize the people she writes about. The way her father reacted when he watches sad movies, for example, said so much about him. And the same goes for Alison herself. There were so many little things that gave tremendous insight into her experience. There's a line, for example, about breast cancer genetic screening that made me do a double-take... but it also showed perfectly how much this meant to her. Overall, this was an enjoyable (and often heartbreaking) read. I look forward to immersing myself in more of Alison Pick's writing.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Somerville

    Recommended by Lucie for book club. I really wasn't interested in reading this book. At all. But I forced myself to (why I'm not sure as no one else in the book club is going to read it. Sorry Lucie will). But I found it to be very readable and enjoyable. It wasn't just a story about this woman's conversion but also her depression, marriage, parenthood and the questions we all ask ourselves about those things. Recommended by Lucie for book club. I really wasn't interested in reading this book. At all. But I forced myself to (why I'm not sure as no one else in the book club is going to read it. Sorry Lucie will). But I found it to be very readable and enjoyable. It wasn't just a story about this woman's conversion but also her depression, marriage, parenthood and the questions we all ask ourselves about those things.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tatiana

    I had this on my to-read list for years. The reason I held out hope my library would acquire a copy (rarely do I buy books on my teacher's salary) was because I felt a connection with Alison Pick's experience. I, too, had family that pushed aside Jewish roots out of fear following the Shoah. I, too, have been impacted by the weighty non-presence of my ancestors and their culture. I, too, have had depression. As I started to (finally!) read, I was drawn in by Pick's exploration of her family's hi I had this on my to-read list for years. The reason I held out hope my library would acquire a copy (rarely do I buy books on my teacher's salary) was because I felt a connection with Alison Pick's experience. I, too, had family that pushed aside Jewish roots out of fear following the Shoah. I, too, have been impacted by the weighty non-presence of my ancestors and their culture. I, too, have had depression. As I started to (finally!) read, I was drawn in by Pick's exploration of her family's hidden Jewish heritage, as well as her lovely use of language and turns of phrase that often bore rereading. Details of her conversion journey were interesting and informative. She knew so very little about the Jewish culture in the beginning that I was able to revel in my moderate base of knowledge. I don't usually preen, but here I did. But that's also when I realized a truth: Pick really felt she was treading a new path. That her grandparents were the only ones to ever hide their Jewish identity. That she was the first to feel a connection to her ancestors that perished long before her birth. That she was the first to decide to convert to Judaism. Also, she blamed her depression on "bad blood" (as did her father and grandmother). Depression is hereditary; it's in our genes. It's also influenced by outside factors. Depression often exists where there is a large amount of dysfunction. There is also ongoing research being conducted on the effect of severe trauma altering our genes. Residual trauma, echoing down generations. A lot of this research looks at Holocaust survivors and their descendants. I find these trains of scientific thought fascinating. But I think there is danger in blaming one's depression on their ancestors' experiences and not recognizing their part in it. It shouldn't come as a surprise that Pick's depression took a backseat the further along she went in her conversion process. It would be enlightening to catch up with Pick in another memoir, all these years later. Her desire to convert stemmed so much from longing for a connection to something she felt lost to her, kept from her by her family. She had that convert zeal. A New Jew. And I do think she felt superior to her family in some ways because she had resurrected that element of their history. I would like to see how she is getting on living as a Jew.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    This overwrought book is well-written, I grant it that. Pick's prose is a pleasure to read. However, I found myself annoyed at the first 10 or so chapters. To understand, a bit of history needs telling. The author decides, in adulthood, that she wants to convert to Judaism when she accidentally discovered that her father's family had been Jewish until the Nazis took over in Czechoslovakia. Then they converted to Catholicism and managed to escape to Canada, where they fearfully constructed a Chris This overwrought book is well-written, I grant it that. Pick's prose is a pleasure to read. However, I found myself annoyed at the first 10 or so chapters. To understand, a bit of history needs telling. The author decides, in adulthood, that she wants to convert to Judaism when she accidentally discovered that her father's family had been Jewish until the Nazis took over in Czechoslovakia. Then they converted to Catholicism and managed to escape to Canada, where they fearfully constructed a Christian life, always afraid their secret would out. So intent on being Christian and allowing no identifying evidence of their Jewishness, they didn't even tell their children about their Jewish antecedents. All this is fine. I, personally, can't fathom why people persecuted cruelly would want to become like their persecutors, but I accept that they do. Being the child of Jewish refugees from Ukraine, I understand fully what the onus of being Jewish has meant in a Christian world. Okay, so what is so annoying about the account of Alison Pick's road to conversion to Judaism? Well, if you want to convert of your own free will, why would you go into a deep depression at the prospect? Why spend chapters whining about becoming Jewish? She dwells upon her agony in several chapters. She claims that she yearned to be Jewish before she even knew that her father and grandparents were formerly Jews. She attributes this yearning on her Jewish genes. Give me a break, Alison. Being Jewish isn't in your genes. It is true that, if you have your DNA analyzed, you'll find that you share some genes with other Jews, but these genes don't compel you to fast on Yom Kippur or sing Dodo Li on Shabbat! My DNA shows I am 74% Ashkenazi Jewish, but I also have Scandinavian, Mongolian, British, Spanish and Italian genes. Despite my Jewish genes, I have no predilection to have only Jewish friends nor to limit myself to Jewish company. None of my grandchildren have Jewish mothers, but I love my daughters-in -law and my grandchildren dearly. So what if they have Christmas trees? Let them enjoy! I never had any objection to any of them. I was raised in an Orthodox home with a large extended family. I spoke English and Yiddish as a child, and learned to read Hebrew and use it in prayers and hymns. So, if I feel Jewish, it's because of my upbringing, not my genes! Had I been raised as a Christian, I'm sure I would have happily hunted for Easter eggs. An Orthodox Jewish upbringing centers on religious rituals in family life, like Passover seders, Chanukah candle lighting ceremonies--and the like. Therefore, many of my feelings of belonging are intertwined with my feelings for my mishpucha (family) and even the foods I ate. In fact, many Jews raised in religious homes like mine do give up Jewish rituals. They don't keep Kosher homes, don't know Yiddish, or fast on Yom Kippur. Many don't even know their Hebrew surnames. That's their business, not mine. Ms. Pick never adequately explains why her decision was so fraught with depression. Her family didn't object. Neither did her Christian fiancé. Nobody did, except for the rabbis. You can't just decide to convert. You have to study for a year. The rabbis make you reconsider at least 3 times before they'll allow conversion. And, there is dunking in holy water in Judaism. It's called the Mikva, and can be done in a river or a special pool, where you immerse yourself completely while saying a prayer in Hebrew. Ms. Pick objects heartily that the rabbis make it so hard to become Jewish. The reason is clear. 2,000 years of horrendous persecution has made it impossible for Jews to proselytize or, frankly, to trust Christians completely. In the USA, for instance, when Hitler built the death camps, he said he'd let the Jews emigrate. Franklin Roosevelt himself refused to allow any Jewish refugees in the US, not even a boatload of children. So did all the Christian democracies. The later chapters in this book make up for the early ones. In these, Ms. Pick describes--not depressive feelings---but her gaining rejoicing in her new religion, all the while staying close to her Christian family.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Laura Duhan

    After great tragedy, a family comes to Canada, hoping to find a new life, hoping to leave old suffering and old identity behind. This works well … for one generation, maybe two. And then hints of what was suppressed begin to surface. But the situation is no longer tragic. Because Canada can be a safe place to confront the past, make peace with it, and choose a future. That’s what Alison, the part of author Alison Pick showcased in the Memoir Between Gods does. She shows how this journey into ide After great tragedy, a family comes to Canada, hoping to find a new life, hoping to leave old suffering and old identity behind. This works well … for one generation, maybe two. And then hints of what was suppressed begin to surface. But the situation is no longer tragic. Because Canada can be a safe place to confront the past, make peace with it, and choose a future. That’s what Alison, the part of author Alison Pick showcased in the Memoir Between Gods does. She shows how this journey into identity can be done. And it is not easy! Sometimes you will laugh, often you will cry, and occasionally you will roll your eyes along with Alison as she tries to reclaim her Jewish heritage -- in a Jewish community that protects itself with many barriers. Alison begins her journey with the fantasy that she will meet a Jewish man. They will fall in love. She will slip into his Jewish family, take on the clearly defined role of Jewish wife, and live the way her great-grandmother did in Europe generations ago. And here is where the genius of Alison Pick, the writer, shines. Alison Pick shows us the gritty psychic reality of Alison’s determination, the way it comes to animate every sensory detail of life. Alison hears a door close down the hall, just as the rabbi says “no” to her and closes off an important opportunity. Alison realizes she can tolerate the taste of her mother’s holiday cooking and forgives her for being Christian; for being reserved; and for being her mother. The ordinary becomes extraordinary, and little questions become big questions, as Alison remakes her life -- one mistake, one insight, one flash of empathy, one victory at a time. Alison Pick tells us a Canadian story, not unfamiliar in a nation with many immigrants. She also tells us a human story, very familiar to anyone who thinks, feels, dreams, perceives, remembers, and retells. Without exiting her narrative, she lets us know that, while the story of Alison in Between Gods is true, it is also a story. It expresses only one facet of author Alison Pick’s worldview. Seeing the world through the lens of this one story opened my eyes, mind, and heart. I can’t wait to read more and see more from the perspective of this gifted and skilled writer.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joanne

    I saw this book on someone's Top 10 list in a national paper, and borrowed it from the library on a whim. It sat in a pile of books for two weeks while I tried to decide if I wanted to read it. I finally picked it up, and to my surprise, I just couldn't put it down. When Alison Pick was a young woman, she discovered that her grandparents were Jews who fled Europe in 1938 and upon arrival in Canada, hid their history from everyone, going to a Christian church, never telling anyone their true story I saw this book on someone's Top 10 list in a national paper, and borrowed it from the library on a whim. It sat in a pile of books for two weeks while I tried to decide if I wanted to read it. I finally picked it up, and to my surprise, I just couldn't put it down. When Alison Pick was a young woman, she discovered that her grandparents were Jews who fled Europe in 1938 and upon arrival in Canada, hid their history from everyone, going to a Christian church, never telling anyone their true story. Her father wasn't even aware of being Jewish. Alison became obsessed with Judaism: researching, taking classes with the aim of converting, confronting her father with the past. She assumed that merely being the daughter of a Jew made her a Jew, and was horrified and deeply upset to find out that it wasn't so, that modern Judaism is matrilineal, and that it would take much more to be accepted into the Jewish community. She set out on a 3 year Odyssey, taking classes, learning many of the rituals, taking counsel with a female Rabbi. She and her Gentile fiancé Degan plunged in willingly, but were hurt and stymied by the seemingly endless hurdles thrown their way. The more she studied, the more determined she was to understand both her family's story and the religion itself. She and Degan went to Europe to visit family sites, visiting Auschwitz and the Holocaust memorial in Prague, where she found family members' names inscribed. Meanwhile, she was struggling to finish a novel based during the Holocaust, and to finally marry Degan after 7 years together. She became pregnant, lost the baby and had a subsequent live birth, all during this stressful 3 year journey. There were times when Alison's dogged determination bordered on obsession, distressing her family, her fiancé and even her Jewish friends. At times, I felt that same frustration with her. It took time for her to get grounded and work through it all, but in the end, she did, with the help and support of those who cared for her. This book was interesting and inspiring, and I hope she has exorcized some of those demons now.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Elisabeth Null

    Absolutely wonderful memoir of a writer trying to connect to her recently discovered holocaust ancestors through exploring and eventually converting to Judaism despite her Christian upbringing. As an Episcopalian who maintains a Jewish home with an observant Jewish partner, I found this work fascinating as it touched so many of the issues faced by someone pulled between two religions. The work is not theological in tone; rather it looks at the push and pull aspects of Jewish culture for an appre Absolutely wonderful memoir of a writer trying to connect to her recently discovered holocaust ancestors through exploring and eventually converting to Judaism despite her Christian upbringing. As an Episcopalian who maintains a Jewish home with an observant Jewish partner, I found this work fascinating as it touched so many of the issues faced by someone pulled between two religions. The work is not theological in tone; rather it looks at the push and pull aspects of Jewish culture for an appreciative bystander gradually pulled into a full embrace.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    For anyone who is considering converting to Judaism, I think this would be a very good book to read. It's detailed both about process and about the emotional journey that's inevitable, particularly if the spouse is not Jewish. For the rest of us, Between Gods: A Memoir is a really insightful window into Alison Pick's own personal journey; it's an honest and engaging read. I was quite captivated by her spiritual journey, dedication and desires. I knew Alison a little bit in high school -- what I For anyone who is considering converting to Judaism, I think this would be a very good book to read. It's detailed both about process and about the emotional journey that's inevitable, particularly if the spouse is not Jewish. For the rest of us, Between Gods: A Memoir is a really insightful window into Alison Pick's own personal journey; it's an honest and engaging read. I was quite captivated by her spiritual journey, dedication and desires. I knew Alison a little bit in high school -- what I remember of her twenty-ish years later is that she was a kind, quiet and intelligent woman. What I read in this memoir absolutely aligns with what I knew then. Some of her struggles are painful to read, and I'm sorry she's had to experience them. What I would say is that Alison's writing is strong in this book, but even stronger in her novel Far to Go. That book was an incredible read, and I highly recommend it to everyone, particularly those with an interest in the Jewish experience (outside the concentration camps) in WWII. I learned a great deal in Far to Go, as I did in this memoir.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chel

    It is a thoughtful, detailed book. As I read it, I kept thinking I should have been enjoying it more than I was. I have been deeply moved by other memoirs about religious conversion, but this one lacked the features that made the other ones speak to me. The author is not rejecting a faith that is a bad fit for her, nor is she embracing a faith that speaks to her soul. (Or if she is, that part wasn't well expressed.) Instead, she is rejoining a tribe, donning a new culture, in solidarity with anc It is a thoughtful, detailed book. As I read it, I kept thinking I should have been enjoying it more than I was. I have been deeply moved by other memoirs about religious conversion, but this one lacked the features that made the other ones speak to me. The author is not rejecting a faith that is a bad fit for her, nor is she embracing a faith that speaks to her soul. (Or if she is, that part wasn't well expressed.) Instead, she is rejoining a tribe, donning a new culture, in solidarity with ancestors who died in the Holocaust. She links her own depression to their suffering (which was something she didn't learn of until her teens -- although perhaps it was passed along to her in implicit ways). I don't know how to think about this. I don't share the author's experience, but I think if I did, I would respond to it in very different ways. I found myself mildly impatient with the author through much of the book, wishing she would just get on with her life, explore Judaism to the degree that it interested her, but not agonize so much. -- I do think the title for the book is misleading. It's not a memoir about being between gods, as there is very little said in it about God or spirituality; a better title would be "Between Identities" or "Between Communities."

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rena Graham

    "We huggle on the couch - hug + cuddle - and try to memorize the Hebrew letters we've been assigned for our latest Jewish Information Class." It was lines like this, and the constant crying - bucket fulls! - that made me want to throw this book across the room at times. I stayed with it as I was interested in the sense of identity she felt with the Jewish faith and how that would play out for her. Well written and chock full of yet more hideous Holocaust stories, this is not a writer I will be f "We huggle on the couch - hug + cuddle - and try to memorize the Hebrew letters we've been assigned for our latest Jewish Information Class." It was lines like this, and the constant crying - bucket fulls! - that made me want to throw this book across the room at times. I stayed with it as I was interested in the sense of identity she felt with the Jewish faith and how that would play out for her. Well written and chock full of yet more hideous Holocaust stories, this is not a writer I will be following. Her life of privilege and perfect family were not something I can relate to and I found it all just a bit too charmed and lacking in depth.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Krissy

    Intense emotions and a beautiful journey through depression. Pick takes us through 2 years of her life and her journey to find the faith that speaks to her soul, through her blood. I thought this was going to focus more on religion. It was a pleasant surprise to find that the focus was on her present, on her blood's history, & on finding herself in a faith that is hers. Historical context applies, Holocaust references abound. As someone who has black moods come and go from her life, I appreciate Intense emotions and a beautiful journey through depression. Pick takes us through 2 years of her life and her journey to find the faith that speaks to her soul, through her blood. I thought this was going to focus more on religion. It was a pleasant surprise to find that the focus was on her present, on her blood's history, & on finding herself in a faith that is hers. Historical context applies, Holocaust references abound. As someone who has black moods come and go from her life, I appreciate this portrayal and how she adapts to find peace.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Farrell

    This book really, really resonated with me for some reason - it was like a copy of The Memory Palace that I could actually relate to, and therefore, feel for. Alison's journey is sad and tragic, yet uplifting at the same time - the connections between her past and present are dramatic, yet not overbearing. I loved the relationship she has with her Dad, and how easy they both are with each other. While it didn't really end to my satisfaction, it is still a worthwhile read. This book really, really resonated with me for some reason - it was like a copy of The Memory Palace that I could actually relate to, and therefore, feel for. Alison's journey is sad and tragic, yet uplifting at the same time - the connections between her past and present are dramatic, yet not overbearing. I loved the relationship she has with her Dad, and how easy they both are with each other. While it didn't really end to my satisfaction, it is still a worthwhile read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rosa Laborde

    Intimate. Raw.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ruby Bibi

    -Memoir by the author, of her journey from being a Christian to her conversion to Judaism, which was the religion of her paternal grandparents. As a young girl, she was told by a Jewish friend that her father was a Jew. She didn't believe it, but didn't learn the full story of her family history until later on. -Her paternal grandparents were from Czechoslovakia and experienced the oppression against the Jews in the early years of WWII. They were to leave with her grandmother's parents, but left -Memoir by the author, of her journey from being a Christian to her conversion to Judaism, which was the religion of her paternal grandparents. As a young girl, she was told by a Jewish friend that her father was a Jew. She didn't believe it, but didn't learn the full story of her family history until later on. -Her paternal grandparents were from Czechoslovakia and experienced the oppression against the Jews in the early years of WWII. They were to leave with her grandmother's parents, but left first in 1941 and made it to Canada. Her great grandparents, though, never made it out. -When her grandparents arrived, they wanted to avoid the oppressive attitude they had felt that was directed against Jews, and they wanted their future children not to have to worry about being accepted in society. As a result, they turned their back on Judaism and converted. Their son, Thomas, who was Alison's father, married a Christian, and it was as a Christian that Alison was raised. -When she became an adult, Judaism always had a fascination for her. She became engaged to a young man, Degan, and he encouraged her to pursue her interest. She was conflicted, as her father was ambivalent about the religion; she herself wasn't sure if that was what she wanted; she also wasn't sure if her fiance would go along with this, as he didn't seem to want to convert as well. -As she got more involved with the conversion process and classes, she was told by the female Rabbi who was guiding her, that without Degan converting with her, Alison's conversion request would not be granted, which added another layer of tension to her relationship. -Ultimately, through Reform rabbis, she was accepted, but for me the ending is bittersweet. As much as she seems committed to the religion, she is not considered a Jew by anyone other than the Reform movement. This can create more confusion going down the road, as the Judaism of the Reform movement, which states that the Bible was not written by G-d, but was divinely inspired, along with other disavowals, is not a universal belief among Jews. It's an interesting book, and well written but the premise of the book is not to my taste. Her successful conversion raises more issues and is not what I consider to be a happy ending. -A very interesting and important point was raised in the book. In Alison's meetings with a psychologist to help her through her decision, the widespread belief was brought out that, because so many Ashkenazi Jews lost family members in the Holocaust, their descendants equate Judaism with that horror. It was when Alison realized that both were distinct that the therapist said that Alison reached a major breakthrough. A friend of mine, who belongs to the Reform movement, was speaking with his son and his son said he knows why marrying someone Jewish was so important. It was only because his grandma lost so much of her family in the Holocaust and it was important for her to see her grandchildren marry Jews. Because of his son's lack of feeling for Judaism other than as an expression of support for the grandmother's resistance against the Holocaust, once the grandmother was not going to be around, there would be no reason to prevent him from marrying out of his faith, which is what his son also expressed.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    I found this book to be a highly satisfying read. Alison Pick is a Canadian, and I do seem to favour Canadian women authors these days. She writes in an exquisitely detailed way about her dreams (she actually does some Jungian "dream work" with her counsellor in the book-- describes dreams), her goals, her desires, her feelings, her material life. She describes high places, crises, and relationships in a way that one might share in a phone call with a very good, long-term friend. The driving them I found this book to be a highly satisfying read. Alison Pick is a Canadian, and I do seem to favour Canadian women authors these days. She writes in an exquisitely detailed way about her dreams (she actually does some Jungian "dream work" with her counsellor in the book-- describes dreams), her goals, her desires, her feelings, her material life. She describes high places, crises, and relationships in a way that one might share in a phone call with a very good, long-term friend. The driving theme is her desire to convert to Judaism-- probably more accurately, to claim her Judaic roots, and be recognized as Jewish. While this may sound like a 'dry' premise, I assure you that, if you are a reader who appreciates the exploration and building of character more than action-drama, that you will find this memoir checks all your boxes. That is not to say there is no action-- just that the action is related to the general theme and not some gratuitous car chase. Intelligent action? lol I don't want to give anything away. Reading the book is such a joy. I just ran across this short magazine piece by Alison Pick online and think that it will give you an idea of how intimate and beautiful her writing is: https://www.todaysparent.com/family/p...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Well written and engaging memoir about Ms. Pick discovering the truth of her Jewish roots and her spiritual quest to become a Jew. At the heart of the memoir is her family's abandonment of the faith because of the Holocaust and emigration to Canada. The trials and tribulations of being accepted by the Jewish community is engagingly written. My hesitation about the book is understanding her racial memory that causes her to feel a Jew even though not being brought up or instructed in it at all. I a Well written and engaging memoir about Ms. Pick discovering the truth of her Jewish roots and her spiritual quest to become a Jew. At the heart of the memoir is her family's abandonment of the faith because of the Holocaust and emigration to Canada. The trials and tribulations of being accepted by the Jewish community is engagingly written. My hesitation about the book is understanding her racial memory that causes her to feel a Jew even though not being brought up or instructed in it at all. I am very secular but fascinated by other's spiritual quests. I would like to read some of her fiction.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Laura Carter

    I normally do not like memoirs or autobiographies. They typically skip around with no real purpose or focus. But this book. This book is top tier. I went into it knowing almost nothing about it. I got it from the library and it sat on my shelf for weeks. I almost returned it without reading it but decided to renew it and give it a shot. And am I ever glad I did! Heartfelt, touching, informative, and raw. I enjoyed every single part of this book. I 110% recommend it and I don’t like recommending I normally do not like memoirs or autobiographies. They typically skip around with no real purpose or focus. But this book. This book is top tier. I went into it knowing almost nothing about it. I got it from the library and it sat on my shelf for weeks. I almost returned it without reading it but decided to renew it and give it a shot. And am I ever glad I did! Heartfelt, touching, informative, and raw. I enjoyed every single part of this book. I 110% recommend it and I don’t like recommending books. I can’t even tell you how many times it made me choke up and tear up. Amazing and perfect 👌

  25. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

    What a painfully beautiful journey! I truly enjoyed Pick's writing style that helped the story to flow well. Nicely paced, both looking forward with hope for the future and back to understand and embrace the truth of the past, of her roots. I ached for Alison to come to a deeper knowledge that the God of the Hebrews is also the God of the Christian . . . but sadly her Christian experience had been mostly religious. I rejoice with her finding peace and a deep sense of identity. Blessings on her and What a painfully beautiful journey! I truly enjoyed Pick's writing style that helped the story to flow well. Nicely paced, both looking forward with hope for the future and back to understand and embrace the truth of the past, of her roots. I ached for Alison to come to a deeper knowledge that the God of the Hebrews is also the God of the Christian . . . but sadly her Christian experience had been mostly religious. I rejoice with her finding peace and a deep sense of identity. Blessings on her and may others be blessed as they read about her journey.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Whitzman

    This was a very unsatisfactory memoir. It is possible that Alison Pick had a bad set of spiritual guides when she and her partner converted to Judaism. I guess it was just a choice for her to virtually excise her Christian mother from the book. But there was an awful lot of what I felt was unnecessary drama in this memoir - and an odd combination of brutal honesty and casual dishonesty. Some scenes, like a miscarriage, are well drawn. But alas I came away not particularly liking the author or an This was a very unsatisfactory memoir. It is possible that Alison Pick had a bad set of spiritual guides when she and her partner converted to Judaism. I guess it was just a choice for her to virtually excise her Christian mother from the book. But there was an awful lot of what I felt was unnecessary drama in this memoir - and an odd combination of brutal honesty and casual dishonesty. Some scenes, like a miscarriage, are well drawn. But alas I came away not particularly liking the author or any of her circle.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dolank

    A powerful book about one's own struggle with our family's past, future, and our religious beliefs. I have overly simplified the meaning of this book, but the book is anything but simple, I cried with the author several times, her pain and journey can be felt with each page, and it is a book that stays with you long after it is read. Thank you for sharing your journey. A powerful book about one's own struggle with our family's past, future, and our religious beliefs. I have overly simplified the meaning of this book, but the book is anything but simple, I cried with the author several times, her pain and journey can be felt with each page, and it is a book that stays with you long after it is read. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Pastor

    As a Jew-ish person heading into a marriage with a proper practicing Jew, this book was really helpful. I learned so much about…everything! I even had a few interesting things to add at the Shabbat dinner table. Allison did so much research to write this book and I’m so grateful to her for sharing her story. Very comforting to someone who is intimidated by the whole thing.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Eiserman

    This book really surprised me! It was required reading for a class and not something I would have picked out on my own. I tend to avoid books with religious themes, but I may have to rethink my rule. This was a beautiful and compelling story about faith, family history, and grief. Pick’s prose style is intricate, detailed, and in some places unexpected. Gorgeous, slow, and tender.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Fascinating, well-written memoir of embracing Judaism by the author. The questions posed by her choice to pursue conversion are coherently addressed in the telling of her story. Reads like fiction but rings like truth, her truth. She found it.

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