The Way Back

Knopf. Sept. 2020. 368p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781984894625.
Gr 7 Up–From the moment a girl leaves her cottage to gather strawberries at the far side of the forest, Savit sets a dark fairy tale tone. Readers fast forward to meet Bluma, the teenage granddaughter of the berry collector, and Yehuda Leib, a poor and scrappy village neighbor of Bluma’s age. Told from alternating viewpoints, and incorporating language and elements from Jewish folk tradition, Bluma and Yehuda Leib begin separate adventures—eventually crossing paths on the outskirts of their shtetl of Tupik in a cemetery where “the living world wears thin,” and both Bluma and Yehuda Leib cross over into the Far Country. Dark messengers, the Master of Whispers, Lilith, and the Sisters of Lileen inhabit this magical realm. Bluma brings with her a magical spoon, dropped by the Dark Messenger when he took her grandmother, which allows her to see events in altered time. Yehuda Leib enters and encounters the Treasure House of Lord Mammon, who eats a tiny man as a snack, and enlists Yehuda Leib’s help in a plot for more power. As they unite over chicken soup in an old hut, with a double-edged dagger at hand, Bluma and Yehuda Leib realize that death comes for everyone in its own time, but need not be faced alone.
VERDICT An entrancing historical fantasy, thick with elements of magic and folk tales.

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