Review: “Grand Jete (The Great Leap)” by Rachel Swirsky

5 of 5 stars.

This deeply intimate novella told in three acts revolves around an immigrant father, Jakub aka Abba, that lost his wife, Ima, 4 years prior and his dying 11 y.o. only daughter, Mara. It is highly recommended.

Act I–“Mara.” Mara barely recognizes her cancer-wasted body and face in the mirror. Her appetite is quickly slipping. Yet she tries to stay strong for her Abba who still hasn’t recovered from his wife’s, her mother’s, death. Mara finds comfort and refuge in her mother’s home dance studio and watching old DVDs of Ima dancing Giselle, Cinderella, and Coppelia. However, she is shocked to find that her Abba, like a sci-fi Gepetto, has constructed a life-like doll of Mara to capture her consciousness before she slips away.

Act II–“Jakub.” He cannot watch the videos of his deceased wife yet. He cannot even step into her studio. And now his daughter is dying–she looks like the photos of his grandparents freshly freed of Auschwitz. He takes comfort in his Jewish traditions, and the doll he has made–a modern day golem. Mara reluctantly allows the mind-capture. Taking inspiration from the story of Ruth and Mara/Naomi from the Torah, he names the doll Ruth and awakens her.

Act III–“Ruth.” She feels real. She is Mara. But a wasted remnant of Mara is still rasping for breath in the familiar bedroom upstairs . . .

“Grand Jete (The Great Leap)” appears in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2015 edited by Rich Norton and published by Prime Books. It first appeared in Subterranean, Summer 2014.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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