Debut author Stopler offers a novel, based on a true story, about one woman’s struggle to overcome a trauma from her childhood.
On April 15, 1974, 9-year-old Tali Stark is on her way to school in the Bronx, New York, when a strange man in a white limousine asks her for directions. Tali thinks nothing of stepping into the car, though it’s not long before she realizes that she’s in danger. The man soon molests her in an empty parking lot before driving her back to school. Young Tali is too afraid to tell anyone about the incident, so she carries the secret in silence for years. Readers follow Tali as she attends high school, graduates from college, falls in love, rediscovers her Jewish roots, and even climbs Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Through it all, however, she remains haunted by the man in the white limousine. The scene of Tali’s sexual assault is difficult to read, but the rest of the book moves at a steady clip through the protagonist’s life. Throughout, she grows emotionally in ways that are believable, insightful, and tinged with sadness. Her journey through Judaism, for example, provides readers with a crash course in the ideas of cabala, and the details of her therapy sessions show how she faces the disturbing episode in her past. The book’s several dream sequences, though, can seem a little too on-the-nose; in one example, she dreams of climbing a mountain, which directly leads to her decision to attempt Kilimanjaro. Dreams aside, however, the book paints a strikingly vivid picture of Tali and the challenges she faces on a long, winding road of healing. As she herself states, “It’s so hard to let go. I wish I were better at it.” Rooting for her is easy and watching her mature is endearing, making the novel as a whole a quite memorable experience.
A realistic, touching account of a lengthy quest to move on.