I really enjoyed the different perspective that this novel had to offer. When most of us went to school we read about Anne Frank and her hiding from Hitler. Freedom & Loneliness takes the reader on a journey escaping from multiple wars and the hatred towards Jews. From an education stand point, I think this novel should be included in a historical reading curriculum. Although I enjoyed the reading the “behind the scenes” story of Jews who had escaped from turmoil, there were grammatical choices I did not understand. There was dialogue, mainly from letters and stories being told, that would begin each paragraph with quotation marks, but the end of the paragraph would not. I didn’t understand if that was an intentional usage or an error. Some paragraphs and dialogue would begin and conclude with quotation marks. There were also some grammatical errors in spelling. This may be from the translation process from Hebrew to English.
Freedom & Loneliness mainly focuses on Avremele and his journey to reach Eretz Israel. We are given the back story of others that he comes into contact with along this journey. The novel begins with Avremele exiting a train, very ill, with other survivors. He is immediately separated from this group of people that he has been traveling with and taken to hospital to be treated. He had on him a “new” identity so as not to be discovered as a Jew. His new name became Lipkover Avraham. From this point, Avremele overcomes many obstacles to enter the land of Eretz Israel.
Avremele is a young boy when his home is attacked and is forced to flee for his life. His brother, Pinke, accompanies him in part of his escape. They band together with the trades they know to keep themselves alive another day. Throughout Avremele’s journey he has hid in barns, ate scraps that were given to him, and withstood the relentless weather conditions. With no home or parents to return, Avremele’s journey to his Mother land is heart breaking.
In a world that hates anyone of Jewish background to the depth of their core, it’s hard to imagine that Avremele would find the determination to continue in his journey. Avremele manages to make his way to Italy and hitch a ride to the top of the mountain that holds a school for children. After much persistence, he finally convinces the guard to let him at least for the night. This school for survivor Jewish children was just what Avremele needed in his journey to Eretz Israel. He is able to socialize with other children who have survived Jewish attacks, pick up some studies, put food in his belly, and rest his head in a real bed. Of course, this shift in his everyday life was difficult to adjust to at first. Eventually, Avremele loosened up to his new lifestyle and soaked in every bit of new information. From this school for children, Avremele was accepted into a group that would start to make their way (illegally) to the land of Eretz Israel.
This new journey put Avremele back into survivor mode reminiscent of his younger days. The one thing that was different in this trip was that this time he was with friends who were surviving this journey with him. Avremele and his friends had many obstacles that jeopardized their entrance into Eretz Israel. At one point, the group had to hitch a ride on a boat to make it to their Mother land. However, their boat was intercepted and they were forced to sail to Cyprus where they would be treated as prisoners. These Jewish survivors have fought so hard to get to Eretz Israel, and now they were being transported to another prison. The devastation amongst the group was substantial, and the will to continue on became dim.
Near the end of the novel Avremele succumbed to his love interest, Ayala, and joined the army to protect Jerusalem. It chronologically goes through the various major impacts of the new war that was now bestowed upon the Jews.
I didn’t particularly care for the way the novel ended. It included letters between Avremele and Ayala. My interpretation of the ending is that Avremele makes it back safely from the war and continues his life with Ayala. The ending, for me, didn’t have a complete sense of closure. On the other hand, Freedom & Loneliness is the continuation of Avraham Aviel’s first novel, A Village Named Dowgalishok, and I want to read the first part of this story.
Review by Rachel Murphy
Closed the Cover