A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
I heard about A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True a number of times before I read it: first, from glowing reviews that made me put it on my “To Read” list. Then, my mom–not a fiction reader herself–gave me a newspaper article that focused on the book’s Polish location. I knew I had to check out a story that promised not only good writing but also one set in my ancestral homeland.
Brigid Pasulka chose the title to highlight the book’s fairy tale aspect. The story begins with beautiful, virtuous Anielica and clever, industrious Pigeon, the young man who fell in love with her at first sight. He sets out to win her heart by a marvelous renovation of her family home in rural Half-Village. Their union seems certain and blessed, but when World War II breaks out, it detonates bombshells for them and everyone they care about.
Segue to the early 1990s and a parallel story. Beata has just arrived at her cousin Irena’s house, in Krakow, after the death of her cherished grandmother Anielica. As the women share memories and hopes with each other and Irena’s daughter, they build a bond that begins to lift them up through the changed and challenged country that is the New Poland. As with their ancestors, however, it will not be so simple.
In addition to wonderful writing, characters, setting, plot and ideas, Pasulka’s debut work is rich with dialog that made me laugh out loud, a real bonus. I recommended this book far and wide and was delighted when my book club picked it. To prepare for the discussion, I reread the story and found it even more enjoyable the second time, thanks to helpful resources on the author’s website: http://www.brigidpasulka.com/. We also used the website to contact the author since we knew she visits local book clubs on a limited basis. She did indeed join us and her charisma and comments made the meeting–and the book–one I will never forget.
Review by Christine