Book Review: A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True

When the award-winning twenty-three-year-old author Brigid Pasulka fell in love with Poland, she fell hard! Luckily, she took us with her!

In A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True, Pasulka’s debut novel, readers are taken captive in a fanciful fairy tale where history and fantasy dance and the magical and tragic collide. The storytelling reaches across Poland and stitches together two generations of one Polish family—the joys and emotional scars of the past are pieced like a patchwork quilt of pain and triumph.

Europe is on the brink of WWII, but in the Polish hamlet of Half-Village, a beautiful young woman named Anielica, famed as the loveliest girl in the land, is wooed by a young artisan nicknamed “the Pigeon.” In one short summer, the Pigeon transforms Anielica’s parents’ home into a near palace to win her hand in marriage. But the outbreak of war derails the young lovers’ fairy-tale wedding. And unspeakable disaster strikes Half-Village.

Fifty years later, Anielica and Pigeon’s granddaughter retraces her grandparents’ footsteps from Half-Village to Kraków. Beata, nicknamed Baba Yaga, hopes to find fortune in the new post-communist Poland. She lives with her elder cousin Irena and Irena’s pretty daughter Magda. And unwittingly she becomes the healing force in this troubled mother-daughter relationship. That is, until a tragic event changes the happy threesome forever. The young Baba Yaga carries the burden of finding the darkest secrets of the past and present. She must discover for herself where she fits in her family. Alone, she must decide whether to try her hand at filmmaking in New Poland or escape to America.

Pasulka’s infatuation with the dynamics of romance and her Polish heritage creates a wonderfully nuanced and complicated read that is altogether charming. Fanciful, insightful, magical, and sometimes as dark as real life can be, A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True is a delightful work of literature.

I absolutely recommend this book to any lover of historical fiction or to anyone whose grandmother or grandfather left the country of their birth and never returned.

This is a love story that I’ll never forget.

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