The Slow Way Back

From the Book Jacket

This exquisitely written, remarkably crafted first novel traces three generations of a Southern Jewish family. It is a story about deeply rooted family secrets, the complex love between sisters, and the constant human struggle to keep one’s history alive.

Finding her mother’s wedding dress, ten-year-old Thea was sure she had discovered a treasure. While trying the gown on, she easily envisioned the beautiful bride her mother must have been. But when her mother discovered her wearing the dress, a shattering rage is unleashed — and the feel of her slap across Thea’s face lasted a lifetime. Her mother’s irrational anger, coupled with Thea’s already strong feelings of disconnection with her father and only sister, Mickey, caused her to feel like an outsider in her own family.

Married to a non-Jewish man, unable to have children, her parents now dead, Thea acquired eight letters, from her grandmother to her grandmother’s sister, written in Yiddish in the 1930s just before and after Thea’s parents’ wedding. The cache of letters promises to answer some of her lifelong questions and resolve her ambivalence toward her family, but Mickey urges her not to have the letters translated, to “let sleeping dogs lie.” Thea decides to trust her own instincts and have the letters deciphered — and indeed begins to unravel the perplexing and disquieting secrets of her family. In the end, Thea faces sadness in her life as well as a multitude of questions raised by these letters, questions about marriage, sisters, and what it means to belong.

The Slow Way Backis a love song to family, to this family’s — and every family’s — ability to confront the most difficult parts of its past and face the future with hope. This story will move you deeply; its ending has a fullness of spirit you will not soon forget.


Praise for The Slow Way Back:

“A luminous, achingly beautiful novel that makes you shiver with delight.  Judy Goldman is a lace-maker with her lovely words, and her novel made me happy to be alive.  Her ending thrilled and surprised me.  Please read this book.”
~ Pat Conroy

“Judy Goldman unwinds a tangled skein of family secrets to get to the comforting certainty at the center:  that mothers, daughters, sisters, and the loved ones in their orbit are profoundly and permanently connected no matter what befalls them  The Slow Way Back is rich with detail and insight, and satisfyingly honest about the pain of coming to terms with loss and ambivalence.”
~ Rosellen Brown 

“From the first page, the reader is in good hands with Judy Goldman, a spell-binding storyteller of the sort who can keep you up all night long reading.  A shrewd psychologist as well, Goldman here explores the oldest mystery there is:  why we are who we are – what is identity, anyway, and what does it have to do with family?  Toward the end of this accomplished novel, Goldman writes that ‘there really are no secrets in families – only subjects people secretly decide not to talk about.  On some level, everybody knows everything that’s going on.’  Goldman’s folk wisdom and narrative skill combine to produce a suspenseful and finally heartwarming novel.”
~ Lee Smith