Title: A Long Long Time Ago & Essentially True
Author: Brigid Pasulka
Publisher: First Mariner Books
How I got it: Publisher sent the blog a copy to review
Rating: 4 stars
This book was not what I expected. Although, honestly I don’t know what I expected. If I were to judge it on its cover, maybe something super girly and mind-numbing (not that that’s a bad thing if you’re looking for an easy read/escape). It was not that at all. It was more of a family epic that then threw you for a loop towards the end. The end? WOWZERS DID NOT SEE THAT ONE COMING! I won’t spoil it, but let me warn you now: Heartbreak. So much. And not the sad girly “I didn’t get the guy wah” but real, genuine “did this really just happen? Oh my gosh how am I even supposed to feel anymore?” heartbreak.
So let me give you a basic plot synopsis: The book is split up into two stories of two different generations that alternate every chapter (which is very enjoyable to read, because Pasulka ends each bit of the stories at perfect points at the end of her chapters). The first story is of Pigeon and Anielica in 1930s Poland. It starts out with their cute courtship and eventually deals with the coming of the war and moving to the city afterwards. The second story is of Baba Yaga, a mid-20s girl who just moved to Krakow and is trying to figure out what she is going to do with her future. (I personally found this part of the story very relatable, because as a soon to be graduate, my future is currently a big question mark.) As the stories progress, you begin to see how they intertwine and how every character is involved with another. For example the first connection you learn of (and most necessary to the story – but don’t worry not a spoiler) is that Baba Yaga is Anielica’s granddaughter. I loved seeing how characters were connected from one story to the other.
That being said, the first story is not a war story, although the war is in it. It’s a love story and a family trying to survive story. And it is really wonderful. It is probably my favorite of the two. The second story is Baba Yaga in Krakow, working jobs, trying to find love and deciding whether she should go to university or really just trying to figure out what she wants to do with her future. I don’t really know how to describe the heartbreaking part of the story without giving too much away.
What kept it from being 5 stars for me: 1. Her writing could be on the vague side. She often just assumed that you knew what was going on. Sometimes it didn’t matter because it would something like “and then Baba Yaga asked Magda about her day, and Magda told her”. That… okay, not that serious. Kind of annoying, but not enough to lose a star, but she also did it to REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS. Something crucial happens to Anielica, and I almost missed it. I had to re-read the page multiple times to decide if something was happening or not. That really bugged me. So that lost half a star. 2. Her usage of polish – this book is sprinkled with polish words. Usually I would think this is cool. But she gave no context clues to what they might mean and no glossary in the back to look them up. So often times I was completely clueless to what a character just said. And there were usually about 3 or 4 on one page. That’s a lot to not explain. That lost the other half a star.
But besides those two things, this book was good. Great stories. Great (sad) ending. I definitely recommend it!