And Leon Gildin does, not once, but three times, as he takes a story shared by a former client and turns it into a sprawling family saga that spans three generations and as many continents, playing on the breadth of human emotion against a vast historical expanse. Now, as The Polski Trilogy, the trio of riveting stories is available in one volume.
Gildin crafts a stunning page turner, from the horrors of Nazi occupied Poland to the shining promise of the state of Israel to the hopes and dreams of America. Drawing on his intuitive understanding of human nature, and the very randomness of human life, he creates a cast of characters and a gripping plot line that plumb the depths of human need, want and desire.
In the first book of the trilogy, Gildin, a lawyer turned novelist, tells the story of the Hotel Polski, a way station for Jews trying to escape from the Nazis — bizarrely run by the very captors from whom they were trying to flee — and two couples who find their way there and ultimately escape and resettle in Israel. It is a tale wrought of intrigue and serendipity, of lost identities and deeply held secrets.
The second book tells of the refugees’ lives in Israel, shadowed by the moral ambiguity of choices made even as they continue to go on. The third book, in a series of twists and turns, seeks to resolve the inner conflict that has continued to plague the survivors as the third generation confronts their grandparents’ past.
The characters are as engaging as the plot, as Gildin gives his imagination free rein, asking the what ifs and what thens that drive the creative process and the sequence of the trilogy’s narrative. He ruminates on the fortuitousness of life and our inability to be in control. “You can’t explain, you can’t plan,” he says. Yet writing a novel allows him to do just that, plotting out the ending of the final book into a very satisfying conclusion.
“They were good people,” he says of his characters, “and why shouldn’t they have a happy ending?”
Why not, indeed?