Robert L. Inchausti, Ph.D.
"In Letters to My Father, Kathleen Balgley treats us to a moveable feast of fascinating people, places, and cross-cultural encounters, as she tracks down her father’s lost Jewish origins in Eastern Europe. With the luminosity of an exalted quest, Balgley’s brave and eloquent memoir of her search for her Jewish roots, written in a first-person narration, positions us securely behind her eyes—thinking things through, remembering, and attending to every heartrending moment and absurdity she encounters—from her childhood fascination with her “exotic” Italian neighbors to her Jewish grandparents’ Brooklyn apartment on to Warsaw’s Okopowa Jewish Cemetery. An epic of soul retrieval and self-discovery, Letters to My Father is an intimate look at how our lives connect across geographies and generations—timely in its accounts of immigrants, exiles, and outcasts, lost souls and soul survivors—including second and third generation Americans. At turns, poignant, funny, and surprising, Balgley introduces us to many people from around the world—ordinary souls who—though not particularly powerful or famous—are extraordinary in who they are, what they have endured, and in what they have come to understand about themselves and about us. A meditation on how we are made (and unmade) by the historical forces shaping our private lives and a remarkably intimate account of interpenetrating worlds, this is also a telling, inspiring story of coming home to unknown places felt but not yet named. Told with a novelist’s eyes for particulars and a poet’s ear for sublime language, Balgley is a candid participant-narrator whose Chekhovian observations take us behind the surfaces of things to the untold inner-dramas within them. Narrated with enchanting verve, humor, and intelligence, Letters to My Father is an inspiring journey of the spirit, very moving and very wise."