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On the eve of World War II, in a place called Half-Village, a young man nicknamed the Pigeon falls in love with a girl fabled for her angelic looks. To court Anielica Hetmanskáhe offers up his golden hands” and transforms her family’s modest hut into a beautiful home, thereby building his way into her heart. War arrives to cut short their courtship, delay their marriage, and send the young lovers far from home, to the promise of a new life in Kraków. Nearly fifty years later, their granddaughter, Beata, repeats their postwar journey, seeking a new life in her grandmother’s fairy-tale city. But instead of the whispered prosperity of the New Poland, she discovers a Kraków caught between its future and its past. Whimsical, wise, beautiful, magical, and at times heartbreaking, A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True weaves together two remarkable stories, reimagining half a century of Polish history through the legacy of one unforgettable love affair.
Winner of the PEN/Hemingway Prize for Fiction "In this life-affirming novel of past and present, Brigid Pasulka twines the bright colors of fable with the subtler tones of disillusionment, survival, and rebirthincarnating not only her characters and their lives, but Poland itself. Rarely does a novel succeed so well in evoking place and history, especially with a story as winning as this one. A marvelous debut."
Nicole Mones, author of The Last Chinese Chef and Lost in Translation
"Two lives, a grandmother's and her granddaughter's, are knit together in a finely wrought tapestry that illuminates an inheritance of a less familiar kind. At once haunting and exquisitely vibrant, Pasulka's original tale is a treasure, transcending history, time, and place." -- Martha McPhee, author of Gorgeous Lies
"Pasulka’s delightful debut braids together two tales of old and new Poland. . . . Pasulka creates a world that’s magical despite the absence of magical happenings, and where Poland’s history is bound up in one family’s story." --Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Grand in scope, yet meticulous in detail, Brigid Pasulka's generous and affectionate novel finds universal truths in both its most-dramatic moments and its most-intimate observations. A compassionate, elegant, and moving debut." --Adam Langer, author of Crossing California
"Funny and romantic like all the best true stories." -- Charlotte Mendelson, author of When We Were Bad