Books by Michael Swirsky

ALONG THE TRACKS by Tamar Bergman
Released: Sept. 1, 1991

The author of The Boy from Over There (1988) bases this story about a boy in the USSR during WW II on the real experiences of a Polish family that later emigrated to Palestine. Told in the third person from various points of view, the novel's first section describes Rosa and Yitzhak's desperate flight from Lodz with their two children as the Nazis seal off the ghetto. They find a haven in the Crimea until Hitler invades Russia; then Yitzhak joins the Russian army while Rosa and the children again escape east. In the confusion of an air attack, Yankele, now eight, falls from their train and is lost. During the next four years—as narrated by Yankele, now prudently known as Yasha—the boy survives by stealing food, making fleeting alliances with other lost boys, snuggling into the ``Black Hotel'' (still-smoldering cinders piled by the railroads), and hopping trains whenever local merchants begin to recognize him. Against all hope, the family is reunited at the war's end. Yankele's experiences transform him from a trusting, dependent eight-year-old into a wily, self-reliant urchin who maintains an inner core of innocence even though he finds it difficult, once it's no longer necessary, to break the habit of thieving. Meanwhile, readers are exposed to a compellingly authentic picture of life in the likes of Tashkent and Samarkand during the war—a cruel world where the state effectively abandoned homeless children, but where some remnants of kindness and humanity survived. A gripping, evocative story; the translation is excellent. (Fiction. 11+) Read full book review >