The Way Back
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST • A SYDNEY TAYLOR NOTABLE BOOK
Perfect for readers of Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman, a sweeping historical fantasy that follows two teens on a journey through the Far Country, a Jewish land of spirits and demons.
For the Jews of Eastern Europe, demons are everywhere: dancing on the rooftops in the darkness of midnight, congregating in the trees, harrowing the dead, even reaching out to try and steal away the living.
But the demons have a land of their own: a Far Country peopled with the souls of the transient dead, governed by demonic dukes, barons, and earls. When the Angel of Death comes strolling through the little shtetl of Tupik one night, two young people will be sent spinning off on a journey through the Far Country. There they will make pacts with ancient demons, declare war on Death himself, and maybe-- just maybe--find a way to make it back alive.
Drawing inspiration from the Jewish folk tradition, The Way Back is a dark adventure sure to captivate readers of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and Philip Pullman's The Book of Dust.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
For Yehuda Leib and Bluma, a troublemaking boy and dutiful girl living in a 19th-century Russian shtetl, each day bleeds into the next. But when a dark messenger dressed in the blackest of black passes through their village on his way to a grand wedding in a neighboring town, both teens find themselves on a treacherous path. Toward what? The Far Country: a strange, magical land of shape-shifting demons, saber-toothed ogres, and aristocratic lords and ladies who claim dominion over the dead. A spellbinding fantasy that’s firmly rooted in the history and folklore of the Russian Jewish people, this enchanting tale is filled with dark, fantastical creatures and life-or-death stakes. The Way Back has a different energy than Gavriel Savit’s acclaimed World War II–set Anna and the Swallow Man. Its captivating and chilly old-world atmosphere shifts into realms as dreamlike as the best works of Tolkien or Gaiman. But even so, we’ve never read anything quite like this.
At once historical and tenderly intimate in scope, Savit's (Anna and the Swallow Man) ambitious novel begins in the Eastern European shtetl of Tupnik in the 19th century, where the arrival of the Messenger of Death sets two Jewish youths on intersecting paths. The boy, Yehuda Leib, is desperate to recover a soul from Death; the girl, Bluma, eight days his junior, seeks to escape Death's angel after accidentally acquiring its instrument: a seemingly innocuous but powerful spoon. Both travel into the Far Country, a graveyard-adjacent realm inhabited by demons and the Army of the Dead, attracting the attention of powerful, corrupt demon nobles who see them as tools. Savit suffuses folklore and Jewish mysticism into a narrative tangle of chases and bargains, otherworldly horrors a wheelchair woven of still-growing fingernails is particularly memorable and delicate, compassionate moments, all studded with Yiddishisms. The duo's journey across the demonic demesnes and the mortal town of Zubinsk, where an open wedding invitation convenes both devout Hasidim and opportunistic entities, all looking to benefit from a holy presence, presents a bewitching allegorical adventure comprised of small, beautifully composed moments. Ages 12 up.