I love libraries. I love the idea of being surrounded by stories of all kinds. Sometimes I’ll just browse one shelf and do what everyone has told us not to do our entire lives: judge a book by its cover. If the cover interests me, I’ll dive in and see where the story takes me.
When I happened to stumble upon A Blessing on the Moon, I found the cover and the description whimsical. A rabbi who turns into a crow…a ghost looking for redemption…I was instantly taken.
As a Jewish student, I have to say that I’ve read my fair share of Holocaust books, both mandatory and voluntary. Diaries, autobiographies, and collections of historical non-fiction all seemed to tell the same tale, but with different characters. A Blessing on the Moon, however, is unlike any book I’ve ever read about the Holocaust…or any other subject for that matter.
Like many Jews in the 1940’s, Chaim Skibelski was a successful businessman and family man before he was shot in the head by a Nazi soldier. Unable to rest peacefully in The World to Come, Chaim is forced to wander the earth as a spirit, encountering a world that’s both unknown and familiar to him.
Beginning his adventures at his old house, Chaim finds that his house is now home to a large Polish family. He quickly discovers he’s invisible to all of them except their young, dying daughter, whom he befriends. Through this little girl, Chaim learns about what has happened to the world in the days, perhaps years, that he’s been dead. And when she inevitably passes away, he watches her ascend into the arms of Jesus, and wonders what he’s still doing roaming this God-forsaken land.
Chaim continues his journey aided by his old Rabbi, who has turned into a crow. Along the way he meets several characters, including a talking head that may have belonged to the soldier who shot him. His journey is long, gruesome, and at times quite scary.
Similar to the story Maus, A Blessing on the Moon conquerors one of the darkest moments of the twentieth century with daring originality and brute force. It is both hideous and beautiful, intertwining vulgarity and gore with elegant prose and story-telling.
Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.