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New: Local Author Returns to Berkeley for Readings of Highly Praised Novel: The Rescuer's Path by Paula Friedman

By Gar Smith
Wednesday June 12, 2013 - 09:23:00 AM

I encountered The Rescuer's Path on a Caribbean vacation. Looking for something to read while a Trinidad rainstorm rambled in over the treetops, I reached into my backpack and dug out a copy of Paula Friedman's 200-page book. Within minutes, I was hooked. While my body was slung in a hammock slowly rocked by warm, tropical breezes, my mind was a thousand miles away — transported back to the year 1971 and tangled in the underbrush in Washington DC's Rock Creek Park, a stone's throw from the US Capitol. 

This book, by former Berkeley resident Paula Friedman, begins with an improbable encounter between a young girl on horseback and a man she finds sprawled near death sprawled on a the banks of a muddy creek in the depths of Rock Creek Park. Malca Bernovski, is the teenaged daughter of a Holocaust survivor. Gavin Hareen is a fugitive antiwar activist — gravely wounded and the subject of a massive manhunt -- the key suspect in a deadly truck-bombing attack. 

While "Malki" and her family are singed by the legacy of the Nazis, Gavin is a contemporary soul -- a man consumed by the arithmetic of morality. Is it acceptable, Gavin ponders, to sacrifice one life if that death can halt a war and save thousands? 

Marvelously structured, The Rescuer's Path proceeds in alternating chapters as the voices of Malki and Gavin forge a bond that will take them to a fateful night in the wilds of Colorado. 

Initially wary of the battered, bloodied stranger, the young girl's concern for his survival slowly deepens into affection. Malki's budding sense of physical attraction is presented in wonderfully palpable tendrils of prose. 

The writing — which unfurls with the strut and pace of lyrical poetry — begs to be read aloud. Savor, if you will, the first sentence: "It was coming into the full moon, that early summer evening — blistering heat after too cold a winter, antiwar protests downtown near the White House, rumors of another murder in Bethesda — when young Malca Bernovski turned the stallion for the first time toward a red-clay gully at the northern edge of Rock Creek Park." 

If reading a book could be compared to walking along a beach, caught between the solid reality of the shore and the churning symbolism of the restless sea, this book invites the reader to stumble across verbal marvels that burst forth like brilliant bits of polished agate found shinning in the sand. 

The writing is spellbinding and it draws you forward, enticing as a fragrance. 

"The gully again grew somnolent and still, and she found herself caught in the serious gaze of this black-eyed man people said might be a terrorist and murderer." 

"The bouncing light made ripples on the wood grain. An ant on the table would get lost but never fall off." 

Nights are filled with pink light and "the mold-dark hopelessness of the bone-crowded grave." (That's damn near Shakespearean.) 

"We are people holding hands, like those in that blue-lit New York morning, clasping while we tumble down—and this is all. Seeking to protect, whether by holding close or by letting go." 

Halfway through the book, the story takes an unexpected and jarring turn. It's almost anti-novelistic. Suddenly, this most unlikely two-person romantic adventure from the 70s is propelled 30 years into the present where it turns into a sprawling multigenerational saga of lost souls and survivors of parallel families, of children lost and regained.  

Owing to the risks Friedman takes with the plot, there is a narrative hole in the middle of The Rescuer's Path – a gnawing absence of three defining decades. Many readers will yearn to know how lives evolved, how painful decisions were made and what consequences followed. Perhaps these missing, bridging years will form the basis of a follow-up novel. If so, there will be a fan base waiting. 

Currently a resident of Parkdale, Oregon, Friedman spent much of her life in Berkeley where she participated in many historic campaigns for peace and justice and enlisted as a reporter for the Berkeley Barb, Berkeley Tribe, and Grassroots. Many long-time Berkeleyans will remember her as the former public relations director for Berkeley’s Judah Magnes Museum. Friedman was also founder of The Open Cell, a Berkeley-based literary collective/magazine. Her writings have won acclaim from the Pushcart Prize, New Millennium Writings, and the Oregon State Poetry Association, among others. She is the recipient of the 2006 Columbia River Fellowship for Peace and, in May of this year, won first place in LinkedIn's Science Fiction Microstory Contest. 

Praise for The Rescuer’s Path: 

“Exciting, physically vivid, and romantic”—Ursula K. LeGuin 

“From the first page, Friedman illuminates a world. Deft strokes and elegant leaps propel the story forward. The writing is lyrical, the characters vivid, the story captivating.”Small Press Review 

“The book you can’t put down, the people you will remember, the vibrant story we shareCarol Denney, Berkeley singer-writer-activist 

“I could not stop reading this novel”—Carole L. Glickfeld, Flannery O’Connor Award winner 

Local Bay Area Book Readings 

June 12, 6-7:30 pm -- University Press Books (Bancroft below Telegraph Ave.), Berkeley 

June 13, 7-9:30 pm -- Aquarian Minyan Author Series, St. John's Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave., Berkeley 

June 14, 12:15-1:15 pm -- Berkeley City College (in the Atrium), 2050 Center St., Berkeley 

The readings include discussion time and book signings; the June 13 reading includes light refreshments. The readings are free, except the Aquarian Minyan reading June 13 is a benefit for the Minyan (a small donation is requested but NOT required). 

Paula Friedman's website is and her blogsite is