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Review: Bruce J. Berger's To See God
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Norm Goldman --  BookPleasures.com Norm Goldman -- BookPleasures.com
Montreal, QC
Tuesday, February 7, 2023

 

Author: Bruce J. Berger

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

ISBN: 978-1-68513-157-9

In To See God, Bruce J. Berger writes convincingly with impressive depth and feeling about a group of characters whose complex stories become intertwined.

 

A good part of the narrative centers on a Greek Orthodox nun, Theodora, who was saved from death by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Theodora was born Jewish in Salonika. She firmly believes Theotokos (Mary, mother of Jesus) saved her when she was six and later led her to the Greek Holy Monastery of St. Vlassios.

It is here where she is raised to grow into a pious nun, accepting the teachings of the Greek Orthodox Church. 

Theodora feels guilty about her past and continually asks Jesus to forgive her for her sins.

Her mother, father, and sister had all perished during the Holocaust, leaving as lone survivors herself and her brother, Nicky Covo, an American Psychiatrist.

She and her brother, Nicky, were separated for 40 years and are reunited when he visits her at the Monastery with his girlfriend, Helen Blanco, a devout Jewess.

Nicky contends with his own guilt and has lost faith, while Theodora believes that if he returns to the Monastery, he will remember his faithfulness. 

In a letter to Theodora, Nicky reveals there was a man he fought with during the war. His war name was Churchill, whom he had seen anew in Athens one week before he visited her at the Monastery. The man pursued Nicky and Helen around Greece and continued to follow him to the USA. He confesses he has deceived Helen about his encounter with Churchill. She believes it is a figment of his imagination.

The story also follows Nicky's children, Max, and Kayla, as they deal with their own personal conflicts. Max's wife, Cathy, deserted him for another man, taking his two youngsters with her. Two months later, his sister Kayla moved into his home with her four-year-old bi-racial son, Jackie. 

Kayla, an accomplished pianist, has schizophrenia and almost kills her son Jackie when she goes off her medication. At sixteen, Kayla had been seduced by August Sorel, a musician, who deserted her and Jackie and was never part of their lives. Sorel shows up one day and petitions for child custody. 

Max loves Jackie and would never mistreat him. Sadly, the two become embroiled in a tussle, causing Jackie to clam up and refuse to communicate verbally with anyone. Jackie believes "the whole world was a cold dark cloud surrounding him, shutting out not only the sunlight but the air he needed to breathe." 

Theodora is convinced that Jackie is the second coming of Jesus Christ, even though her trusted Mother Superior, Fevronia, tries to persuade her otherwise. She persuades Fevronia to travel to the USA to meet with Jackie and help him recognize his identity. Reluctantly, Fevronia agrees to Theodora's request, and the two ultimately meet with Nicky, Helen, Jackie, Max, and Kayla in the USA, where we read about several searing family dramas. 

The tale is revealed through first-person accounts of each character's haunting conflicts and anxieties, culminating in diverse perspectives of various events. All have adjustments to make and responsibilities to bear or share. The reader is provided with an intimate picture of lives that never seem less than genuine.

Berger's talents lie less in plotting than in creating a moving and sensitive tale with great respect for one's religious beliefs. The story is enhanced with Berger's rich and illuminating knowledge of the world of Judaism and Christianity sprinkled throughout. Some of these theological overtones will delight believers and perhaps make non-believers pause.

 

 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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Name: Norm Goldman
Title: Book Reviewer
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Dateline: Montreal, QC Canada
Direct Phone: 514-486-8018
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