Gerson, Mark David. “After Sara’s Year”, (The Sara Stories), CreateSpace, 2016.
My Friends Are Back
About a year ago I raved about a new book, “Sara’s Year” by Mark David Gerson and remarked that once I finished it, I sat down to read it again. I was probably hoping to find something I missed the first time. I understand that others were drawn into the story as I was and so Gerson wrote a sequel which also proudly stands on its own.
Sadie Finkel has had quite a past and this is what makes her the woman that she is. We sense that there is something going on inside of her but for whatever reason, we do really want to know what it is. There is no doubt that her past has been traumatic. In a sense we are like her as each of us holds onto something that we do not want to share with others. But now the time has come for Sadie to face those issues and to try to understand whether she is the victim or the victimized… and as she does, so do the readers.
I understand that this is the second novel in the “The Sara Stories” about a Jewish family in Montreal and its dynamics. You might wonder why I used Jewish here and question whether Gerson has narrowed his audience by portraying a woman bound to her heritage. Let me assure that this is not the case at all. Judaism has a wonderful history and heritage and it is the perfect backdrop for the novel. Jewish readers will see it as more than just a backdrop and perhaps even as a character in itself. As in all literature our own backgrounds play into what we read and being Jewish myself made me read this perhaps differently than a non-Jew might.
I really love that we feel the author’s love for his characters. I could not help but think that Gerson based these characters on people that he has known; they are just that real. Our Sadie Finkel, for example, manages to win us over and put us off at the same time; she unsettles us and she is totally sympathetic and dear. But Sadie is not alone in being wonderfully depicted. We also learn about the lives of Bernie, Mac and Erik. It is Sadie’s story that is the spine of the book but she is not alone here. Everyone has a story and how we react to someone depends on how we perceive that person (based many times on their story). Gerson paints his characters with such color and humanity that we are quick to perceive who each character is. That does not mean that he gives us all likeable characters but he does shows us what brings each character to the point when we meet him/her. I found here that the more we got to now each character, our impressions changed. There are plenty of surprises here.
I want to stress that knowing about one’s past allows us to understand their present and this is where Mark David Gerson excels. We learn about family and familial relationships, about loves and losses and about passion which is the single word I would use if asked to say one word about “After Sara’s Year”. It is secrets that our characters together and endear them to us.
I found this to be quite an emotional read and I actually found my eyes welling up with tears several times. Holding onto the past can both be hurtful and rewarding and it is also a cleansing experience. I find there is no better feeling that being exhausted after a read yet even with that feeling that there is a sense of disappointment in that there are no more pages to turn.
I have deliberately stayed away from summarizing the pot because I want each and every reader to have the same wonderful experience I have had here. Gerson presents us with a woman that we feel nothing for at first and then grow to love. That’s all I can say but that is more than enough.