Jumping Over Shadows in Karlsruhe (photo by Barbara Jester)

As a writer, there is nothing I like more than connecting with a reader. So I was thrilled when Ellen Amarnek tagged me in the following post:

She had photographed a passage she particularly liked from my article “A Day on a Bench in Paris” in the Bella Grace Issue 19. Then she took the trouble to look me up and created this Instagram post to connect with me. That, in and of itself, is already amazing.

She went to that extra trouble just to let a writer know she liked her work.

But she didn’t stop there.

I replied, of course, and sent her a link to my blog post with images of the actual benches mentioned in the article.

To which she replied:

Next thing I knew, she sent me a message via Instagram telling me she ordered my book. This all happened over Passover, so we also had an exchange about horseradish. A few days later, as she began reading Jumping Over Shadows, she sent me quotes or images of lines she particularly liked, beginning with the book’s epigraph:

“And so everything in our life, whenever we think about it, is there, is available, all that has been before, and all that will be, lies, like a bud or seed, in us.”

Emil Karl Berndt (my grandfather)

I told her to keep them coming as it was so interesting to see which passages particularly resonated with her.

What could be better than a reader sharing passages from my book she really liked?

This was balm for my writerly soul! The best possible connection a writer could have with a reader, a stranger I’d never met before!

I did warn her that I might create a blog post from our exchange, particularly if I could pair her picks with images. So here we go:

Haifa, 2015

This room, I thought, as I sat down by the table, set with cloth napkins and delicate china, could be any living room in Germany. It smelled of coffee and sugarcoated gumdrops… only here the Mediterranean sparkled below.” p. 45

Crematorium in Liberec, 2016

The crematorium in Liberec and its stone steps are still the same as they were in 1938 when my grandparents held my Jewish great-uncle’s funeral there under the eyes of the Gestapo.

“My grandfather…couldn’t help noticing how this man dropped his cigarette butts and ground each one with the heel of his boot, as if he were trying to grind it into the unyielding, smoothly polished stone steps.” p. 72

My son and Aunt Rachel, New York, 2009

Aunt Rachel feeding my son at her dining room table, the very same table where this scene took place twenty years before.

“For a moment, her eyes, her outstretched arm with the tattooed number on it and the Tupperware were suspended in dead silence.” p. 153

(You can read a full excerpt of this chapter in Tablet Magazine: Becoming a Proper Jew in the Kitchen.)

Briosne, France, 2009

The outhouse used to be where the wall is on the right, mentioned in the quote Ellen picked below.

“‘Didn’t there used to be an outhouse over there?’ She was looking at another waist-high stone wall and beyond it what looked like a vast old garden. ‘Yes, indeed, we heard there used to be one there.’ p. 185

These are some of the gems of our exchange. Thank you, Ellen, for your generosity of spirit and taking the time to connect and share with me!