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Fare Forward - A Novel

Fare Forward - Wendy Dubow Polins I received this book as an ARC. It will not be published until September 2011. In its present form, the font is easy on the eyes. The pages are a good weight and the cover is inviting, not threatening. The heft of the book is comfortable and balanced. The story is fast paced and immediately interesting, especially if you like to read about mysticism or the paranormal, although the timeline is a little confusing. As a love story and a mystery, it is outstanding. The power of the heart is profound. It is not a classic, but it is a great book to take along on a vacation, plane flight, to the beach, doctor’s office, anyplace you will have time to relax and read.
I like the staccato style of the prose which set up the feeling of mystery and suspense but at times, the setting and time seemed to jump around as sporadically as the style, perhaps a deliberate ploy by the author to create a feeling of anticipation.
I wondered if the use of the name Landsman, for one of the major characters, was a deliberate play on the Yiddish word “lantzman” which means fellow Jew, fellow countryman, from the same neighborhood. It seemed apropos, at the end, because they were certainly kinsmen.
The story begins with Sophie, in Israel, but soon, seemingly out of nowhere, enters Gabriella, her granddaughter, in Gloucester MA, and then the tale truly takes on a life of its own. In the early pages, I had many questions which, in the end, did not have much relevance to the overall theme. Who and where are the parents of Gabriella, how old is she when we first meet her, (she appears to be a child of indeterminate age which incidentally mirrors one of the themes of the story), what is her grandfather working on, what is her gift, what happened to Lily? Eventually, all of these questions are answered and new, more enigmatic ones are raised.
Is time travel a possibility? Can people escape death? Is there more than one world around us, coexisting, but invisible? Does the past intersect the future? Many missing pieces don’t coalesce until we are about ¼ of the way into the book and then finally, in the last few pages, everything does come together nicely. Although scientific questions are raised, they are not beyond our scope of knowledge, but they are in the realm of the supernatural, and although they are never answered so that we don’t discover how to cross into another plane and live forever…(too bad, too, I was hoping…), it does not detract from the story, but perhaps, adds to it.
I liked the mysterious aura created as the tale unfolded; the confusion it created made me want to continue to read, since I realized that the background was being set up. I sometimes felt that the story was populated by too many incongruous coincidences and tangential escapades which was what created the puzzlement for me. Often an incident was described or remembered as if it had far more relevance to the story than it actually did or as if it had been developed more fully, but it never was. Both Sophie and Gabriella have a prescient gift, but I felt it seemed nebulous and was not fully developed with enough examples extending beyond their own personal experiences. The clairvoyance could have been a bigger theme, for me. I think there might be a sequel, as well as a prequel, somewhere in the future.
At first, I thought Sophie and Gabriella were one and the same beings, or parts of the same, occupying two different time planes in the same place. Gabriella, the main character seems naïve and immature for all of the experiences she has endured in her brief but eventful past, and believing in her requires a suspension of disbelief. When she makes impetuous decisions, like breaking into a place where her grandfather is about to speak, and yet not being manhandled and summarily removed, no questions asked, when she would obviously be a security risk, I did not find her character to be credible. She has had to become independent and yet she seems to behave as if she has been sheltered, and indeed, in some ways she has, but still, she seems unreal. It is a fantasy, though, so perhaps she seems so to blend in better with the tale.
With all the confusion and questions raised for me, I still could not put the book down, except to sleep. I read it straight through, leaving the other two books I was reading to wait for another day. It drew me in with its twists and turns, leading me on so that I simply wanted to continue reading to discover the answers to the many questions raised. In the end, it did not disappoint me.
Gabriella’s grandmother, Sohpie, tells her that “in the end, there is also a beginning”, and so, aptly, the book begins with a prediction of an ending which gives the reader lots to wonder about!