Monday, August 5, 2013

Comment by Prof. Teicher:

Klara’s Journey. By Ben G. Frank. Portland, Oregon:

Marion Street Press, 2013. 228 Pages. $17.95

         Ben G. Frank, noted author of this novel, is a known for his
Jewish travel guides to South America, Europe, and Russia. He also
writes travel articles for Jewish magazines and newspapers. Fiction is
a departure from his usual work but he shows here his extensive
knowledge about travel. Also, he demonstrates his familiarity with
history by heading each chapter with an introductory note about its
historical background. The result is a synthesis of fiction, history,
and geography which some readers may regard as mingling too many

         The story takes place during the Russian revolution beginning
in 1917 with the overthrow of the Czar, proceeding through the
short-lived government of Alexander Kerensky, and followed by the
Bolshevik take-over. Ramifications of this background and its
development provide an ongoing setting for Klara’s Journey.

         She is a 17-year old Jewish girl living in Odessa with her
mother, her brother who is a year younger than she, and her three
younger sisters. Their father is a cantor who left for Canada three
years earlier, planning to send for his family once he was settled.
With no word from him, Klara’s mother has decided to send Klara to
Canada to find her father. The trip will take her across Siberia to
Manchuria to Japan, and across the Pacific Ocean to Canada.

         Klara’s long trek is filled with adventures, new friends, and
setbacks. Breaking down often and frequently delayed, the train moves
slowly across Siberia, a journey of 6,000 miles. Frank keeps us
apprised of developments in the revolution as well as telling us about
the cities along the routes and their populations. Most of all,
however, he spells out the trying experiences that Klara encountered
as she slowly moves to her destination. She discovers her brother who
decided to follow her in his new capacity as a participant in the
revolution. Also, she falls in love with a young man, casting aside
her hesitation to become involved with him since he is not Jewish. Her
unswerving determination to find her father enables her to cope with
all kinds of burdens and adversities, including hunger, illness, and
unfriendly anti-Semites.

         Frank succeeds in holding his readers’ interest as he
utilizes the fruits of his research, manifesting the skills that have
enabled him to be a successful travel writer. He rounds out those
skills by telling the story of intrepid Klara who confronted risks and
hazards that were perilous and precarious. Frank has fully
demonstrated the capacity to make the transition from travel writer to

Dr. Morton I. Teicher is the Founding Dean, Wurzweiler School of
Social Work, Yeshiva University and Dean Emeritus, School of Social
Work, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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