BECOMING GERSHONA by Nava Semel

BECOMING GERSHONA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

As Gershona approaches adolescence, her newly blind grandfather, who deserted his wife and infant son years ago, reappears and takes an apartment with her grandmother, down the block from their Tel Aviv home; meanwhile, a new boy--Nimrod--moves into the same building. Gershona soon forms a close relationship with her grandfather. She also rides on Nimrod's bicycle, gets her own key, gains new independence from her overprotective mother, and tries to fathom matters her parents don't discuss: Who was Gershon, for whom she was named? Why did her grandfather leave? Why have her grandparents remarried? The book revolves around small events and gradual changes (Gershona's frustration with seeds that fail to sprout; walks by the river) punctuated by larger events like Nimrod's sudden disappearance and return. Perhaps because of sensitivity to her parents' pain (her mother is a concentration camp survivor), Gershona suppresses her questions. But though Semel effectively portrays the intense love of Holocaust survivors for their children, her stiff prose makes it difficult to believe in Gershona's emotionally detached voice, while her story is disturbingly inconclusive: Gershona Finds few answers; she's uncertain of her relationship with Nimrod; is about to become a sibling; but is still someone with a shadowy inner life. An enigmatic book most likely to find a place where there is a strong interest in Judaica.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1990
Page count: 153pp
Publisher: Viking