Subtitled “A Novel of Peacetime & War”, Gravitational Fields (2016) by Harry Rajchgot is an epic (450 pages) story that covers the events of the Jewish people from pre-WWII through the struggle to establish the Israeli State to living in Canada. In particular, it is the story of Duvid Grynstzyn (later David Gryn) and how he escaped the small Polish village that was exterminated of Jews by the German army, losing all of his family in a moment of time.
Duvid then sets out on a trek to get to Krakow, where Miriam, the love of his life is staying with relatives. In order to survive, he must disguise the fact that he is a Jew. He is without family, friends or anyone he can trust. Soon, he ends up fighting along with the Polish resistance where he finds Miriam who turns out to be a fierce fighter herself. Their reunion is short-lived, for Duvid believes she was captured and shot by the Germans. Duvid is eventually captured and is confined to one of the Nazi death camps, but manages to escape death by working as a tailor, using skills he learned from his father. Later, after the camps are liberated, he meets Hanna whom he eventually marries and settles down within Israel after serving as a freedom fighter for the fledgeling post-war state. Tired of all the strife he has faced in his life, the family emigrates to Canada to start a new life.
Despite its length, Gravitational Fields is not a sprawling, disjointed novel. Mr Rajchgot maintains an even pace to the storytelling, rarely wandering off the main path. When he does, it is to explore some metaphysical thoughts on existence, the universe or religion, all which play a role in creating the differing gravitational fields the main characters experience, in particular, Adam and Simon the twin sons of David and Hanna. When Simon, a journalist decides to go to Israel to interview Jews who, like his father came to Israel from other countries to help establish a Jewish nation, he then stumbles upon his father’s own story, one that David kept carefully hidden away in an old valise in a closet in their Montreal home for years.
I enjoyed Gravitational Fields, and while I at first found the threads of the story difficult to piece together, they do eventually get stitched together to form a tapestry-like story that has both depth and breadth, and most importantly, significance and purpose. A good, meaningful début novel from Montreal’s Harry Rajchgot.