Judith Teitelman comes to the blog with her debut offering – a story unlike anything I’ve ever encountered before.
Guesthouse for Ganesha
Esther is a Polish girl, determined to make more of her life than just be ‘the one left at the altar’, as her fiancé failed to show for their wedding. A bit hurt, plenty angry and certain that the changes she wants are not available in her hometown, she leaves for Germany and the city of Köln. Not without skills: she’s a seamstress of some talent, but not speaking the language, despite her skills, makes building a business and a life in a new place, away from family and all that is familiar isn’t easy. And while this may be a hugely daunting idea to contemplate, fraught with fears and worries of loneliness, Esther does never actually connect to the people she meets. Her relatives in the city, who all speak German and would be, in other circumstances, the logical people to help her improve her skills and offer her some sense of the familiar all find her removed and cold – not quite their cup of tea.
But, Esther is often in her own head, thinking about the next design, her hopes for a ‘place’ that feels like home, and wondering about the purpose of it all. A chance encounter in the park brings her face-to-face with the image of Ganesha – the elephant-headed man and god – an image she can’t forget, yet soon is wondering if her encounter was even real, or simply a dream. Strangely enough (and unaccountably magical) Ganesha also notices Esther, one who is searching for her place and trying to start a new beginning. For this is his métier – remover of obstacles, and provider of good fortune. But, this is Germany in the grip of the anti-Semitic, isolationist, post-war- angry regime, and increasingly the city is becoming less welcoming to Esther – simply because of her heritage. Soon, India becomes the focus of her obsessions – and off she travels to make yet another new start, in relative safety away from the Nazis.
Change, growth, hope for more and different, and many surprising revelations and a growing acceptance of who she is and her place in the world all come here. As does the gentle influence and loving ‘direction’ provided by Ganesha – as he also tells and shows us as his perspective appears throughout the book, from the first encounter onward. There is a sense of wonder, hope and survivor in this story, as the ‘righness’ of the connection between the Jewish woman and the Indian God becomes simply a story of friendship and reliance, each providing comfort, perspective, and a sense of security to the other in the challenges that occur. A wonderfully unique story that is wholly fresh and engaging, this debut novel provides everything I could want: entertainment, enlightenment, memorable characters and the clear descriptions that show we are far more alike than different, no matter where we come from.
Title: Guesthouse for Ganesha: A Novel
Author: Judith Teitelman
Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy Elements, Magical Realism, Multi-Cultural, Pre World War II, Refugee Stories, Setting: Germany, Setting: India
Published by: She Writes Press
Published on: 7 May, 2019
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Audio Length: 11 Hours: 55 minutes
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In 1923, seventeen-year-old Esther Grünspan arrives in Köln "with a hardened heart as her sole luggage.” Thus begins a twenty-two-year journey, woven against the backdrops of the European Holocaust and the Hindu Kali Yuga (the “Age of Darkness” when human civilization degenerates spiritually), in search of a place of sanctuary. Throughout her travails, using cunning and shrewdness, Esther relies on her masterful tailoring skills to help mask her Jewish heritage, navigate war-torn Europe, and emigrate to India.
Esther’s traveling companion and the novel’s narrator is Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu God worshipped by millions for his abilities to destroy obstacles, bestow wishes, and avenge evils. Impressed by Esther’s fortitude and relentless determination, born of her deep―though unconscious―understanding of the meaning and purpose of love, Ganesha, with compassion, insight, and poetry, chooses to highlight her story because he recognizes it is all of our stories―for truth resides at the essence of its telling.
Weaving Eastern beliefs and perspectives with Western realities and pragmatism, Guesthouse for Ganesha is a tale of love, loss, and spirit reclaimed.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: