Author: Elaine Kalman Naves

Publisher: Linda Leith Publishing Inc

ISBN: 978-1-927535-74-5

Rarely do I have the opportunity to read a book where I can identify with most of the characters, places and experiences that are very much prevalent in Elaine Kalman Naves debut novel, The Book of Faith.

Naves was born in Hungary and grew up in Budapest as well as London, England and now makes her home in Montreal, Canada where coincidentally I was born and have lived for the past seventy-five years. Her novel is set in the suburbs of the west-end of Montreal where you will find a good part of the city's Jewish community. The novel presents the reader with an array of carefully drawn and I must admit familiar characters each of whom has a story to tell.

The three main characters Faith, Rhoda and Erica, who are known to friends and families as the Three Graces, all belong to the same synagogue whose rabbi is quite determined to have a new building built which will probably cost approximately six million dollars. One of the synagogue's members, Melly Darwin, who is a holocaust survivor and a man of considerable means is approached by Rabbi Nate to donate three million dollars.

Melly initially is not exactly receptive, however, giving the matter some further thought he agrees provided that Erica, who is a journalist and author, write his biography. Erica is not enamored with writing about someone whom would be described in Yiddish as a “yutz” (a socially awkward and embarrassing person) but eventually she acquiesces and in so doing opens up quite a pandora's box about Melly's past experiences during the holocaust.

What is particularly noteworthy about the novel is the ease at which Naves fills each page with small meaningful details pertaining to various life experiences that easily resonate with middle age and “golden age” readers. In addition, she has the devilish ability in being able to disturb and at the same time humor without ever becoming harsh or awkward. And even though you may not live in Montreal or for that matter be familiar with its Jewish community, you can still relate to the narrative that provides stark realities relevant to a diversity of familiar themes as flawed lives, the holocaust, divorce, sickness, death, adultery, female relationships, religion, middle age dating, family secrets, aging parents, and synagogue politics.

Naves is very readable seducing her readers to compulsively turn pages as she is very much attuned to the large and small events that make up human experiences, some pleasant others extremely painful. Moreover, she never descends to sentimentalizing her characters, who for all of their misfortunes and despair, still continue to survive. My one grumble about the novel, and this is very common with debut novelists, is that there were too many scenes that should have been left out including the insertion of several biblical commentaries that did very little to move the story along. Nonetheless, The Book of Faith is a delightful moving read offering many pleasures including lovable characters and at times laced with a good deal of humor.