Saturday, September 20, 2014

Back to Jerusalem by Jan Surasky

Review by S. Marie Vernon

Back to Jerusalem is a novel written by Jan Surasky, the 2012 award winning author of Rage Against the Dying Light, a story about Boudicca and her battle with the Roman Empire.  Back to Jerusalem is a novel about another type of battle faced by women living in the 1970’s.  Set in the small town of Jerusalem New York, Jenny Thompson grows up on her family farm, just hours from New York City.  Jenny is gifted and dreams of going to college and pursuing the life of a successful artist.  However, like so many young women of her time, Jenny feels the pressure from her mother and society to put her dreams on hold.  Women of this era are expected to marry well, have children, and support their husbands as they climb the ladder of success. That’s all that is expected of Jenny, but she is destined for so much more.   

Jenny is beautiful, compassionate and very talented.  She’s dating the local football star when she graduates from high school.  Bud sweeps her off her feet and they soon marry and have a wonderful son, Josh.  Later, Bud proves he’s not the best husband and not the best father either.  Jenny has an eye for what is real, beautiful and good.  She wants a more loving and fulfilled life.  She moves to New York City.  There, Jenny struggles, but over time builds a successful life for herself and her beloved son who is growing up.  She’s becoming known for her beautiful landscape paintings and her photography. 

In New York, Jenny sees cultures collide and find ways to exist side-by-side without issue, without drama.  She thinks of Jake Martin, childhood friend and playmate.  Jake was a Mennonite.  She remembers what a great person Jake was and how he dreamed of becoming a revered attorney.  He wanted to help the poor.  Jake had meant a lot to Jenny growing up, but her world and his would not have been accepted by her mother and her Methodist upbringing.  Her mother would never have approved.  The question was would her path and Jake’s ever cross again?  And, if they did would he inspire her and she him as they once had, so long ago? When Jake’s picture hits the cover of the New York Times, Jenny dreams they might, but learns Jake has a fiancĂ©.  Fate would have to intervene if this couple would ever find each other again.

Jan Surasky’s first successful novel, Rage Against the Dying Light received the Eric Hoffer Award and many rave reviews from established publications.  She has now created Back to Jerusalem as another great book.  Through Jenny, this one accurately depicts the plight of women caught in the strong grip of society’s expectations of them in the 1970’s.  Liberation is slow to come for many women, if at all.  Jenny lived her life in the traditional way as long as she could.  She finds herself divorced and struggles for real meaning in her life.  It’s difficult, but she finds her way back to her talents as an artist.  She is successful in every way and she’s done it all by herself.  The one thing she is missing is real love and contentment.  The question is if she goes Back to Jerusalem will she find it?  To find out, it is a must read.

This novel is really a love story, written in a narrative that will speak to those who are romantic at heart, those who desire a little mystery and those who look for what is real in life.  I believe this is a book for any woman who has struggled against odds to be successful in the face of a society that says she can’t do it and shouldn’t even try.  And, Back to Jerusalem is an encouragement to women everywhere, to never give up on their dreams.

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