Monday, October 26, 2015

Review: Between Gods by Alison Pick

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.

For more information about Alison Pick and the book, take a look at her web site or Facebook page. Check out the book's Good Reads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.


  1. The book sounds interesting. I heard Alison Pick speak about the book in fall 2014; check this out at It was really cool. Anyways I hope to eventually get to the book. Thanks for the review.

  2. What a difficult and soul-searching journey she went on ... I'm very interested to read about her experiences.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!


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