cover image The Train to Warsaw

The Train to Warsaw

Gwen Edelman. Grove, $24 (208p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2244-5

Edelman’s second novel (after War Story) is a tale of the Holocaust’s lingering wounds, told in polished prose of distilled intensity. After fleeing the Warsaw Ghetto, Jascha, a Polish Jew, settles in London and finds success with a critically lauded memoir, The Way Down. Yet his wife, Lilka, another Jewish Holocaust survivor from Poland, never feels at home: “Even after forty years, London is as alien to me as the other side of the moon.” When they are invited back to Warsaw for Jascha to give a reading, Lilka considers their return a homecoming, while Jascha does not, saying “God knows why we are going... didn’t we have enough?” Jascha and Lilka must confront the melancholy alienness of their onetime home, where they find themselves lost in once-familiar streets, and Lilka is made to feel like an outsider by residents who compliment her on her excellent Polish. At the reading, Jascha focuses on his work’s most challenging moments, prompting walkouts from an audience whose members are still unable to reckon with their past. Afterward, the couple continues to re-explore the city, all the while working backward into their separate histories, until their stories meet, and they learn that some old truths still have the power to shock, even after 40 years. Edelman has written a well-crafted study of exile and return whose depth exceeds its length. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman Literary Agency. (Apr.)