Title: A Long Long Time Ago and Essentially True
Author: Brigid Pasulka
Publication Year: 2010
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: purchaseDate Completed: 3/16/2011
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
World War II is looming, and a young man nicknamed Pigeon, from a place called Half-Village, falls in love with the most beautiful girl of the mountain village. Pigeon knows a bit about women, growing up with eight sisters of his own. To prove his sincere intentions about the beautiful, Anielica Hetmanski, he offers to transform her family's hut-like home into something beautiful. Pigeon is said to have “golden hands” and is an extremely talented craftsman. As a result, his accomplishments and sincerity win his way into Anielica's heart, and the couple falls in love. When war arrives, their marriage plans are delayed, and they eventually leave their life in Half-Village for the promise of a new and better life in Kraków.
Nearly fifty years later, their granddaughter, Beata, (Baba Yaga) follows in the footsteps of her grandparents, leaving the Village for a better life in Krakow. There, in the new Poland, she lives with acidic, yet funny aunt Irena and her flashy cousin Magda. She discovers that Kraków is caught somewhere in between its future and its past.
A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True, spans three generations, and gives the reader a good sense of the German and Soviet oppression. From the beginning, the story alternates between the grandparents life in old Poland during WWII and the years that followed, and their grandaughter, Beata's life in new Poland - Krakow in the mid 1990s. Both stories are good in their own way, but I was more drawn to the almost fairy tale like feel of the Anielica and Pigeon story, and life in old Poland.
The story was sad and even tragic at times, but I was amazed at the many times the author was able to make me laugh or at least smile throughout this novel. The characters were genuine and their struggles were realistic. I connected with the characters early on, and felt like they could have been family members from generations, now long gone. Ms Pasulka, a debut author has real talent. The way the two stories were woven together, was seamless and the love story aspect of this novel was quite touching as well. This is a novel that should appeal to many readers.