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Far to Go author reads in Belleville

By Ashliegh Gehl

[1]When researching Far to Go, a novel based on the Holocaust, Toronto-based author and poet Alison Pick converted to Judaism.

“My dad was Jewish,” said Pick. “He grew up not knowing that he was Jewish. It was also a secret to me. So there was a family secret around being Jewish.”

Pick read at Belleville’s Public Library Thursday from her second novel, Far to Go; a book that took her three years to complete. The 280-page read is published by Anansi . It’s one of 10 novels nominated for the Ontario Library Association’s Evergreen Award.

Reflecting on her conversion to Judaism, Pick says it was almost an innate transition.

“I found this immediate kind of recognition that seems to me, must have been almost a genetic memory or something,” said Pick. “A lot of the Jewish rituals seemed totally familiar, despite the fact that I hadn’t totally grown up with them.”

Writing Far to Go helped Pick rediscover her Jewish identity, a process stemming from the stories her grandparents told.

“It is inspired by my grandparents in terms of their historical circumstance. Time and place that they lived is very similar to the Bauer’s, the main characters in the story,” said Pick. “At the same time, when I started writing, I knew that I didn’t want to tell my grandparents story exactly. I wanted to write the best book I was able to write, a book that would have the reader turning the pages. I didn’t want it to be kind of bound by what, quote on quote, actually happened.”

Pick says she harboured inhibitions about writing a work of fiction on the Holocaust, a topic explored by many writers.

“The Holocaust has been done so frequently,” said Pick. “I also really tried to distinguish my book in certain ways. For example, I knew I didn’t want to set anything in the concentration camps. I tried to have the contemporary narrator shed a different light on that story that takes place so far in the past.”

Pick was born in Torono but grew up in Kitchener, Ontario, and Quebec’s Eastern Townships. She has a bachelor of arts in psychology from University of Guelph.

Pick says her degree has influenced the way she develops her characters.

“I think that it’s hard to sort of quantify exactly how, but I definitely feel that my psychology background is an important piece toward creating believable, complex human characters,” said Pick. “And that’s something that I strive for, especially in my fiction.”

Pick says she isn’t working on a new novel at the moment, but the blueprints for a memoir are in place.

“I have a two year old so I’m not writing too, too much. I’m sort of working on a memoir about my family’s relationship to Judaism and my own process of conversion. Truthfully, I’m not doing too much on it.”

To learn more about Pick, you can visit her website [2].