Studying the Talmud with an angel should keep the demon too busy to make trouble in the nameless tiny Polish village, but Little Ash manages to hear all the gossip. Many Jews have left for America, but still no word from Essie, the baker’s daughter.
In the town of Belz, 16-year-old Rose now runs the dry goods store for her distractable father, hiring lovely best friend Dinah as clerk. They’ll keep their families afloat and save enough to go to America! Dinah has not noticed that Rose is as fond of her as the young Torah scholar visiting the store is.
The villagers assume that Little Ash and the angel are young men, glad that the pair can go to Warsaw where Essie was last heard from. Oh, that emigration agent is a scoundrel, cheating so many, even killing some, like that rebbe from Belz! Little Ash will make very sure that the agent harms no one else, ever.
And so it is that they are on the steamship dock with Rose, whose year-long plan was smashed when Dinah announced her engagement. The trio watch each other’s belongings in the crowded steerage deck and pray that all aboard stay healthy enough to pass inspection at Ellis Island.
The angel carried along the rebbe’s books, hoping to bring them to his daughter. The murdered rebbe appears to the angel, saying that they must have kaddish sung for him at the earliest moment possible, lest his spirit wander forever!
Rose longs to meet kind-eyed Essie whose photo was in the letters stolen by that evil agent.
And so it was that the three friends became separated at the immigration station, as the angel was passed first because those letters showed a relative’s address.
Can the angel get Little Ash and Rose released from Ellis Island?
Can they find Essie and save her from the ‘shop boss’?
What place will they carve out for themselves in this new world?
Obligation and challenges, friendship and love – those who tried and dared, may their memory be a blessing.
What stories of arriving in new places do you tell?
Book info: When the Angels Left the Old Country / Sacha Lamb. Levine Querido, 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.