Thursday, November 13, 2008

Book Look Review "The Invisible Wall"

Book Look
Debbie Balzotti

Visiting Springville Book Clubs
Many local groups sponsor book clubs in Springville. This wonderful
Book Club enjoyed a gourmet dinner provided by their hostess Sheri Furbeck before discussing the book selection. The food was delicious but the discussion was just as delectable. Everyone read the book and contributed valuable comments. Every book club I visit I want to join, but this one may have tempted me beyond my powers to resist!

“The Invisible Wall”

Harry Bernstein wrote his memoir when he was 93 years old. It gives us hope doesn’t it? Maybe we will still have something as worthwhile to do when we reach nonagenarian status. His memories of life in the English mill town of Lancashire provide a glimpse into a real time and place just as WW1 was beginning. He also tells a love story that crosses two religious cultures and begins to heal the deep wounds of prejudice in a neighborhood.

Harry, or ‘arry which was the only pronunciation he heard, grew up on an unusual street. The Jews lived on one side, which included his family, and the Christian families lived on the other. They did not mix. They rarely entered each other’s homes unless it was absolutely unavoidable. Those narrow homes perched on the banks of a wide uncrossable river paved in stone. Parents on both sides of the street instilled fear and even hatred in their children to keep them isolated on their own safe side of the river.

Harry’s sister Lily changed all that. She fell in love with a Christian boy named Arthur from across the street. The reaction of Lily’s mother reminded me of the movie “Fiddler on the Roof”. The mourning for a lost child who leaves the Jewish faith to marry a Christian is not easy for us to understand today. As Harry’s mother grieves surrounded by her friends, Lily entreats her to speak to her, look at her, acknowledge her. But the funeral wailing continues and Arthur must carry his weeping young bride out of her parents’ home. The gulf between the two sides of the street widens as Christians are appalled at the rejection of Arthur, and Jews are horrified by the idea that one of their children might make the same mistake.

Bernstein fills his pages with real people from his past. He wastes little time on the mundane but gives us just enough detail to understand the setting. He concentrates on the characters and their effect on each other. Outward appearances are lightly sketched, but their detailed conversations overheard by a small boy create a story that is spellbinding.

I rarely long for a sequel and it would seem impossible for this elderly author, but I was happy to read that he is writing another book. I want to know what happens to the Bernstein family when they finally reach America in 1922. I want to know more about those left behind. Hopefully Harry Bernstein will have time to write that book for all of us.

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