The blog tour for Escaping the Whale, Ruth Rotkowitz’s debut novel published by Amsterdam Publishers, kicks off with my review of this thought-provoking and captivating book which explores important themes like mental health, dealing with trauma, and identity.
Marcia Gold is a child of Holocaust survivors. On the outside, she appears to have a perfect life as a supportive school guidance counsellor helping pregnant teens, and with the perfect boyfriend to support her. Yet, in reality, she is concealing her demons, her panic attacks, and is still constantly traumatised by her family’s past. Alongside this, her trauma becomes directly linked with the events constantly consuming the media and her life, this being the Iran hostage crisis, presenting how these conflicts and challenges are still aligned to her life, and even our lives now. She continues to deal with this all on her own, not confiding in her boyfriend, family, or friends that she has, because they are all consumed by their own needs and she does not think hers are good enough and that she doesn’t deserve any help. When she attempts to flee from everyone and everything, she realises that she cannot escape her own self or the trauma of her family that has constantly haunted her. You will follow and connect with Marcia on her journey as she attempts to navigate her job, her life and her relationships, whilst battling her own secret demons that take many forms. You will be tempted to enter the book and help Marcia as you feel like a powerless direct observer, showing the great power of the narrative and the character Rotkowitz has successfully created to be so realistic and emotional.
There were so many things that I thought worked very well to create this fantastic book. As I have said in previous reviews I have written, I love it when narratives have a protagonist who is relatable or that you can truly feel their emotions and personality, which is greatly achieved with Marcia and the first-person perspective used. The reader is given detailed insights into her thought processes and her ability to conceal all of these internally, but not from the reader of course. Rotkowitz truly highlights how the second generation who have not directly lived through the traumas of their family, like the Holocaust, can still be hugely affected by the re-telling of these experiences and these events having occurred nevertheless, which I think is very important to highlight. The Holocaust may be a part of the past, something we learn in the history curriculum, but nevertheless has still left permanent trauma for many who not only directly lived during the events themselves, but also for those who have been told these experiences. I felt a huge emotional investment in this character, wanting to tell her that she is good enough and deserves help, which for me is a marker of the success of this book in creating a compelling narrative that highlights experiences of trauma and how these can affect someone’s mental health and wellbeing, yet can remain deeply concealed until they realise that they need help. The book itself was written beautifully. All of these features contributed to not only my caution to put the book down because I was so invested in Marcia’s narrative, but also why I just had to give this book five stars!
If you are wanting a book that focuses on a first-person protagonist navigating life whilst consumed with trauma and following her on this journey, then this book is definitely one for you to add to your to be read list!
Thank you to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours and Amsterdam Publishers for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review and allowing me to participate in this blog tour.