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ESCAPING THE WHALE

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Ruth Rotkowitz

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ESCAPING THE WHALE 

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ESCAPING THE WHALE

You can run but you can’t hide. This old adage does not apply exclusively to running from an external threat. As the protagonist of the novel ESCAPING THE WHALE discovers, running from internal threats is even more problematic.

 

The novel’s main character, Marcia, has a lot she yearns to escape. The daughter of Jewish Holocaust survivors, she has grown up absorbing the terrors and fears embodied in her family’s experiences in Europe. Her legacy of inherited trauma fills every aspect of her life, from the crackers and mints she hoards in her desk drawer at work ‘just in case’ to her fear of getting into an elevator before checking every corner of it. The book takes place in spring and summer of 1980 when the takeover of the American embassy in Tehran is major news. Concern for the hostages and alarm over the constant stream of news reports about it permeate the atmosphere and Marcia’s already fragile sense of safety is gradually being eroded. As a 28-year old guidance counselor specializing in handling the pregnant students at a large urban high school in Brooklyn, New York, she forces herself to keep it together in order to do her job advocating for her charges. She also does her best to present as “normal” to colleagues at the school and to her boyfriend, whom everyone considers a perfect catch yet who fills her with confusion and discomfort. In addition, she has her family and their expectations to contend with. 

Escaping the Whale

What she feels she can never reveal to anyone are the panic attacks and delusions that plague her. Convinced there are rodents scurrying about in her closet, ready to pounce and do her harm, she suffers in silence. If she confessed this to anyone, what would they think of her? “How could she ever explain the way she was?” she wonders. Imagining sharks and other creatures of the deep converging on land and attacking humans, courting danger by wandering the Brooklyn streets late at night, seeing body parts in inanimate  objects – all these symptoms of inherited trauma rule her life. Every frightening event brings her mind back to stories she has heard of tortures and persecutions during the war. She cannot seem to rid herself of these tormenting thoughts.

At one low point, Marcia wails, “Why hadn’t something been invented to squeeze horrifying thoughts out of one’s mind, like a vise that could siphon out the undesirable imaginings?” 

That is her wish. Unfortunately, she discovers that there is no such thing, no easy out. A series of crises at work and in the news push her closer and closer to a breakdown, and she can no longer continue leading her double life. Determined to escape before she explodes, she flees to a beach resort in Mexico, convinced that in a new locale, away from her regular life and her dangerous closet, she can reinvent herself and be rid of those “inner demons,” as she thinks of them.

 

The Biblical Jonah tried to run away from who he was, so why should she succeed when he could not? Instead of inner peace, what she finds in Mexico is her mental anguish building to a fever pitch. At that point, she knows she has to make some serious decisions in order to take control of her life and achieve true mental health. Can she muster the courage to do what is necessary in order to banish her demons?

 

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ESCAPING THE WHALE 

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Escaping The Whale Review

THE WHALE
SURFACES

Prequel to
Escaping The Whale

PURCHASE

THE WHALE SURFACES

may be purchased globally through 

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THE WHALE SURFACES
 

THE WHALE SURFACES

The romanticized picture of childhood as a time of carefree innocence, of golden sunshine and worry-free bliss can be a dangerous illusion. In The Whale Surfaces, author Ruth Rotkowitz holds a microscope to those idealized years in the life of the protagonist she created in her debut novel, Escaping the Whale. This microscope, at times, becomes a sledgehammer.

 

Marcia Gold is the daughter of Holocaust survivors whose lives have been defined by their painful experiences in Europe. A sensitive child, Marcia has absorbed this history as her own, and the Holocaust looms over her childhood like an ever-present cloud. Despite caring parents and a safe life, Marcia’s childhood is filled with panic and delusions.


Marcia realizes early on that her fearful imaginings are upsetting to others. Yet demons are haunting her and she feels them infiltrating her life, making her ‘different.’ No one can understand her sense of alienation and her frightening ‘visions.’ Mortified by them herself, she believes her only hope lies in escaping the scene of her childhood and beginning an independent life. Only then, she concludes, will she vanquish those demons whose tentacles seem to be sliding relentlessly through the inside of her brain, poisoning all that they touch. Marcia’s search for independence is really a search for mental health. Read after Escaping the Whale, the prequel explains Marcia’s journey to adulthood. Read as a stand-alone, it provides a picture of a child struggling to be ‘normal.’ Marcia Gold, in both books, is waiting to be understood.

THE WHALE SURFACES

Kind words

ESCAPING THE WHALE

Orlando-Books Blog

Set in the 1980’s, Marcia sees the Iran Hostage crisis unfold on TV….adding to her own tensions and anxieties. Marcia is the daughter of Holocaust survivors and struggles with her mental health as being constantly bombarded with news events at home and overseas. She is such a great character, I really felt for her.

Escaping The Whale is an emotion packed and incredibly moving tale of inherited trauma, life and finding your identity. It’s beautifully written with light touches of humour too. This would be a perfect read for a book club as there are so many parts just calling for discussion. 

Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of Escaping The Whale. This is my honest and unbiased review.

 

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OTHER WORKS

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Since the publication of the prequel The Whale Surfaces.

I have decided to focus on small works for a while. I have written short stories, essays, and poems and I hope to get several published. So far, Canyon Voices Literary Journal has published my short story "Delilah," and Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Christmas has published my essay "Hanukkah at the O.K. Corral." It is all very exciting. I am continuing my work for the Phoenix Holocaust Association and have recently given a talk on Holocaust by Bullets and the work of French Catholic priest Father Patrick DeBois in locating mass graves throughout Eastern Europe and interviewing elderly witnesses to these mass executions (known as Holocaust by Bullets). 

I am in the planning stage of two new novels -- one will deal with an eccentric family living in a castle they've inherited which is falling apart. The other will feature an installation artist torn between her devotion to her art and her need for financial security, and between her obsession with a fascinating couple who can help her and her common sense which sees the danger they represent.  

I hope to follow up on these plans!!

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Canyon Voices Literary Journal:
short story "Delilah"

 

Hanukkah at the O.K. Corral

       in Chicken Soup                   for the Soul:           The Magic of Christmas

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