The two stories within the novel are deftly woven together. The contemporary scenes are often humorous, and the characters’ relationships are conveyed convincingly. Kathryn Lasky maintains the tension of Nana Sashie’s story even though it is revealed bit by bit with intervening events in the contemporary story. The balance between the two stories is such that the reader is kept focused on Nana Sashie’s story, which is illuminated by the contemporary events. For example, readers find out about Joe’s toolbox and Sashie’s mechanical abilities early in the story as she fixes a valve for the dishwasher. Since there is not a strict pattern of alternate chapter presentation of the two stories, readers must be alert at the beginning of each chapter to place themselves in the appropriate time frame. The transitions between the stories are smooth, however, and the timing of the events in the dual plots is well-conceived. For example, the newly acquired samovar is revealed just in time so that the recounting of the escape can be told in the glow of its light.
The portrayal of warm supportive families in both stories links the past and the present. The contrast between life in the two time periods poignantly reveals the real meaning of freedom. The inclusion of the Purim story also illuminates the theme of freedom that permeates the novel, illustrating the centuries-long struggle for freedom of the Jewish people. This theme is directly stated at the end of...
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