Eli’s Promise

  • Review
By – January 5, 2020

Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award win­ner Ronald H. Balson’s new his­tor­i­cal nov­el, Eli’s Promise, takes read­ers back in time to 1939 Lublin, Poland. The sto­ry fol­lows the Rosens, a pros­per­ous Jew­ish fam­i­ly made up of Esther, a nurse, Eli who works with his father, run­ning a brick­yard and con­struc­tion busi­ness, and Iza­ak, their young son, as they weath­er the col­lapse of every­thing they know when the Nazis invade Poland. After the Nazis aryanize all Jew­ish busi­ness­es, Eli must turn his com­pa­ny over to Max­i­m­il­ian Poles­ki, an unscrupu­lous man who ped­dles favors to Jews in dire straits while col­lab­o­rat­ing with the Ger­mans. Poles­ki promis­es to keep Eli’s fam­i­ly safe, but will he?

Bal­son takes read­ers back and forth in time to tell Eli and his family’s sto­ry, jump­ing for­ward to 1946, where Eli and Iza­ak have been lib­er­at­ed from Buchen­wald, and Esther has dis­ap­peared. They live, for a time, in a dis­placed per­sons camp in Ger­many, even­tu­al­ly escap­ing to the US where Eli works for the State Depart­ment inves­ti­gat­ing cor­rup­tion and shady prac­tices among politi­cians and con­trac­tors. It quick­ly becomes per­son­al, how­ev­er, as he begins find­ing clues that bring him back to World War II and the mys­tery of his wife’s disappearance.

Read­ers will sure­ly enjoy this well researched his­tor­i­cal nov­el, brim­ming with char­ac­ters who rep­re­sent both the good and the evil aspects of war and pol­i­tics. Well suit­ed for Book clubs, Eli’s Promise is bound to incite live­ly dis­cus­sion since many of the issues raised are still very cur­rent; immi­gra­tion, polit­i­cal cor­rup­tion, war crimes, and justice.

Bar­bara M. Bibel is a librar­i­an at the Oak­land Pub­lic Library in Oak­land, CA; and at Con­gre­ga­tion Netiv­ot Shalom, Berke­ley, CA.

Discussion Questions