Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The Night Journey connects Sashie’s childhood experiences in czarist Russia with her great-granddaughter Rachel’s experiences at home and at school in the United States. The story within a story shifts back and forth from the dangerous plotting and journey out of Russia to Rachel’s secure life. Rachel is expected to spend time visiting with her “old old” great-grandmother about topics of conversation that are approved by her family. Both she and Nana Sashie are displeased with this arrangement: Rachel wants to hear the story that Sashie wants to tell about her family’s life in and escape from Russia. Sashie tells Rachel the tale in small segments in their private time together, often in the middle of the night when Rachel sneaks into her great-grandmother’s room. In the contemporary story, Rachel is involved in coaching her friend in the lead part for the school musical, an interesting counterpoint to the guise of Purim players that Sashie’s family uses for their escape. The stories also intertwine when Rachel finds the top piece of the family’s samovar (an urn with a spigot used for making tea) when rummaging though the scrap box for costume material. In honor of Leah’s birthday, Ed manages to reconstruct an authentic samovar, which Nana Sashie insists on keeping in her room.

The larger portion of the escape story is devoted to the planning and preparation rather than to the actual events of the escape. Sashie has overheard the adults talk of escape and of their frustration with their inability to devise a plan. One night, she conceives a plan of traveling as Purim players. Sashie’s family members lend their strengths to solve each of the problems to be...

(The entire section is 696 words.)