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A Blessing on the Moon

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  478 Ratings  ·  82 Reviews
Joseph Skibell's magical tale about the Holocaust ”a fable inspired by fact” received unanimous nationwide acclaim when first published in 1997. At the center of A Blessing on the Moon is Chaim Skibelski. Death is merely the beginning of Chaim's troubles. In the opening pages, he is shot along with the other Jews of his small Polish village. But instead of resting peaceful ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 7th 2010 by Algonquin Books (first published January 10th 1997)
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Sep 15, 2011 Jill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: inhumanity
One of the unique joys of a passionate reader is chancing upon a book that is so richly imagined it grabs you by the hand and takes you along on an incredible journey. Such is the power of the remarkable A Blessing On The Moon.

Not since D. M. Thomas’s amazing The White Hotel have I read a book that tackles one of the darkest moments of the twentieth century – indeed, of any century – so originally and audaciously. Written in a sort of realist surrealism style, the novel successfully combines fan
Darshan Elena
Apr 22, 2011 Darshan Elena rated it it was amazing
What a surreal, macabre, and amazing read! This book doesn't overlook the horrors of war and genocide; rather it exposes such banal evil to the light of the moon, heart, and mind. Skibell's A Blessing on the Moon is sheer brilliance.
Aug 04, 2009 Annie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Essentially describing the Jewish holocaust of WW2 (and afermath) - as seen from the dreamlike perspective of an elderly family man; a man we first meet running from the mass grave he has just been blasted into. This book takes fantastical routes through alternate realities to give an impression of devastation from the point of view of eternal hopefulness.
Roger Brunyate
The World to COme

A skein of gossamer wound around one of the heaviest facts of history, this book from fourteen years ago still has the power to amaze. The fact is the Holocaust. The gossamer is woven of at least two separate strands: the idea that someone can climb out of a mass grave and move as a ghost through space and time, and an old Yiddish folk tale about two Hasidic men who ascend to the moon in a boat which they fill with so much silver that they drag the moon itself down to earth with
Aug 14, 2010 Chrissie rated it liked it
I finished A Blessing on the Moon. I think at the end its message was rather trite and overworked, The fantastical story got too complicated. There were too many fictional details to say something rather simple. Too constructed. Perhaps the auhor was trying to say more than I comprehended. Furthermore, as the book reached its end, the humor became less frequent. I prefered the first half because there the gruesome bits are balanced by humor and the reader is egged on by curiousity. I wish I coul ...more
Oct 11, 2015 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was intrigued and enthralled by this book and read it in close to one sitting. Even so, I would not begin to claim that I came close to even halfway understanding much of the symbolism and allegory it contains. The story follows a Jewish patriarch from the time of his execution by the nazis through 50 years of his afterlife as he searches for The World to Come. As the author describes in an interview at the end of the book, the characters are based on his family and the manner of telling the s ...more
Nov 10, 2013 Cat. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, history, humor
A funny book about the Holocaust? A ghost story about a man shot by German soldiers? A fable about the disappearance and retrieval of the moon? The revenge of the dead Jew, which entails kicked the dismembered head of the soldier who shot him through the forest? All that, in one book?

The story starts with Chaim being shot and left, with the rest of the Jews in his Polish village, in a pit. He immediately climbs out and goes back to his house, where Polish peasants have moved in lock, stock and b
May 21, 2014 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the best, if not _the_ best fictional treatments about events during the Holocaust I have read.

Chaim, the ghostly protagonist, is a mensch although he doesn't realize it. The dead rebbe, in the form of a crow, acts as a spirit guide. Although the subject matter is incredibly painful, Skibell never descends to the maudlin; quite the opposite. He writes of the humanity which still glimmers in the worst,the most tragic of times times.

At the end, as another reviewer here wrote: "This is a s
This was a Holocaust book with a twist. It combined events of the time with Jewish traditions and mysticism. Perhaps those not raised or fluent in the unspoken/unwritten traditions and beliefs of the Jewish faith may not fully understand many references and nuances. This book was touching on many levels.

I read this many years ago, along with Jane Yolen's Briar Rose, as alternatives for presenting the Holocaust. While Briar Rose was suitable for a middle grade audience, A Blessing on the Moon is
Oct 26, 2012 Kerfe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I found this book to be very theatrical, and it turns out it began as a play. Skibell said he felt it didn't have enough dialogue to stay on stage, but it is very visual, and I don't think it would need much talking to be successful. Well--it's a good novel too.

One of the reviews I read of Ramona Ausubel's "No One is Here Except All of Us" mentions "A Blessing on the Moon" as being similar and also excellent. And they do share some similarities. They both use the Holocaust as a starting point an
Melissa Conner
I love libraries. I love the idea of being surrounded by stories of all kinds. Sometimes I’ll just browse one shelf and do what everyone has told us not to do our entire lives: judge a book by its cover. If the cover interests me, I’ll dive in and see where the story takes me.

When I happened to stumble upon A Blessing on the Moon, I found the cover and the description whimsical. A rabbi who turns into a crow…a ghost looking for redemption…I was instantly taken.

As a Jewish student, I have to say
A book to read, mainly, with the heart. I didn't understand a lot of what went on, what it meant in a metaphorical sense, but I deeply felt the book with my heart. And my heart was broken.

Despite all the fantastical elements in this book I didn't find all the things that happened any less explicable than what life is really like. We live in an inexplicable and fantastical world whether we recognize that or not. How would one deal with all that pain, all that blood. If Chaim Skibelsky was wanderi
May 15, 2016 Alaa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Blessing on the Moon is one of the most intriguing and beautiful books (fiction) I have read. This epic tale of life after death follows the struggles of Chaim Skibelski, whose life was brutally stolen from him along with the lives of the 3,000 Jews of his town. In death, Chaim tries to make sense of the cruelty of anti-semitism and the inhumane crimes committed against him. The novel is essentially Chaim's journey to the World to Come. Guided by his Rabbi, now in the form of a crow, Chaim tri ...more
Carolyn Gerk
I hate to give this novel two stars. I really enjoyed the first half but the second drug on and was actually kind of annoying. The fantasy approach the the author used was clever and , as the comment on the cover states , "as magical as it is macabre". In the latter half, however, the fantasy seemed too complicated and not at all rewarding.
I found this alternate reality a fresh take on a theme that tends to be beaten into the ground. The author had received negative reviews based on the fact th
Sep 10, 2015 Robert rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended to me by a friend of mine and at first it was not too bad of a read. The main character starting the book with being shot and dying was interesting and following what happened next made for quick reading at first. However, the book began to drag midway through and it began to feel like the author had nowhere to go with the story so various, ridiculous plot points came to be. Throughout the story there were times in which the story could have ended and the book would hav ...more
May 18, 2016 Julia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In A Blessing on the Moon, Chaaim Skibelski is sent on a journey in the afterlife. He awakes, as if from a dream, to find himself covered in bodies, having been shot by the Nazis and thrown into a mass grave. Terror stricken and running for his life, he discovers, he too, has suffered tremendous wounds and is bleeding out. He is dead, now caught between the world of the living and the world to come, in a never-ending state of limbo.

While Chaim explores the countryside, the war is always hanging
Dec 16, 2013 Debbie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who can handle a magical realism approach to the Holocaust
Recommended to Debbie by: goodreads
Shelves: holocaust
This is a "magical realism" holocaust book. Our main character Chayim has already died, or actually been killed by the Nazis, when the book opens. We get to hear straight from the horse's mouth what the experience of execution, along with all your neighbors is like. But the book is not just a gore fest. The hero visits and watches his home ,now inhabited by his neighbors. He finds his family and catches up with them. A tortured body and soul, he is looking for peace in a cruel world.He finds a s ...more
First line: "It all happened so quickly."

I didn't feel particularly involved in this book. Partially, I felt like I needed to have a better understanding of Jewish faith, theory, and myth to get the deeper meaning and symbolism of what was going on. I kept reading because I was intrigued by a book set during the Holocaust that is told from the point of view of the ghost of a man who dies very early in the round-up of the Jewish population in Poland. This was unique. For people who enjoy lyrical
Aug 22, 2014 Cathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wish I could give it 4 1/2 stars! Read as a book club selection. It is never easy to read about the Holocaust, even when presented as a magical/folk tale. Still, so happy I picked it up. The big take away for me is the idea that we are all forever changed by genocide - anytime - anywhere.

"...let me say it loudly - novels and stories are not trivial. On the contrary, profound stories are a means of orienting ourselves within the cosmos. Literature is a compass that points to humankind's true nort
Michael Lewyn
Apr 01, 2012 Michael Lewyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The hero of the story gets shot dead by Nazis- but instead of going immediately into some sort of afterlife, he wanders around Poland- first, his house and neighborhood, then the adjoining countryside. Eventually, he discovers that other murdered Jews from his town, including most of his family, are also in this in-between state. The town's Jews then wander around until they find someplace that they think is Paradise. But then the book gets even stranger (without giving away the ending!). I gene ...more
Susanna Suchak
Jun 05, 2012 Susanna Suchak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This tale about triumph over the evil of the Holocaust and the gift of being in community lingers with me and will for some time. The writing is full of imagination, insight, irony and dry wit. It leaves me yearning to possess such faith -- full of doubt, overcome by curiosity. It compels me to commit lines to memory - so poignant and instructive to life in general and to mine in particular.Joseph Skibbel honed his craft on the short story and it is evident in his precise yet elegant language. C ...more
Jan 24, 2015 Ryo rated it liked it
I would have liked and understood more if I were more familiar with the Jewish folklore and religion. This was as a whole an imaginative unique story, but the third chapter was a little harder for me to follow. Why does an already-dead Chaim Skibelski still have to undergo such an unreasonable hardship? In the third chapter it just got too unbearable. It was hard to understand that why a victim could not just rest in peace? What does the moon at the third chapter stand for? Why couldn't he just ...more
3.5 There was probably a third or fourth of the book that I just didn't really like - this isn't so much criticism as a matter of taste, I don't often like macabre elements and this certainly isn't a light topic - but other parts were really beautiful and came together so well. It's definitely one of those books where it would be nice to talk to someone else about it afterwards and just think about it.
Mar 02, 2011 Carole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a difficult book to rate and review. This holocaust novel is written in the style of magical-realism, which I find difficult to read or enjoy. Never would have read it if not a book club choice, found it very gruesome. No one in our group could say they liked it except for me. It was cathartic for me to read and I cannot stop thinking about it. It spoke on a deep level of mysteries that are beyond my understanding.
The Book Garden
The beginning did not capture me...but it could be that I did not give it a fair chance. I intend to go back to it when I have completed a few others. It is written beautifully, so that is not the issue. Can't seem to pinpoint what it is that could not keep me motivated to keep with this one.
I would like to give it another try!
I picked this up because I enjoy WWII fiction. I didn't read enough of the blurb to realize it was not a traditional historical fiction book. It's not that I didn't enjoy the writing and description that I've given the book 2 stars; it's simply because I don't care for zombie/vampire/ghost characters. Would this book be considered paranormal? Anyway, it just wasn't my personal cup of tea.
Hshafter Shafter
Wow! This book is a *trip* and a half. It starts out normal enough; we've seen plenty of stories from/about the dead. But this just takes it to another level - Beetlejuice style. I love the way the author incorporates Jewish culture into the story without telling the reader. It is just intrinsic. I also love the creepiness mingled with the mundane.
Sep 27, 2012 Sandra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful story of what should not be so wonderful- the holocaust was horrible, but for Chaim Skibelski, the ordeal continued even after he was shot dead. Leaving behind the other of his village in Poland, he climbs out of their grave and wonders the area trying to come to terms with his dilemma.
I never forgot this book even though I read it years ago. It was a strange book to me because at the time I didnt realize it was folklore and in my young-reader mind I wasnt grasping the hidden meanings. It was a touching book at the time, but believe I would get more meaning from the book in 2013 than I did all those years ago.
May 13, 2016 Lsilberman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastical story, meaning that nothing in this book could actually happen. And most of what happened was pretty weird: Dead people--both Holocaust victims and perpetrators--turned into birds, or continued to roam the earth or to carry on with their lives while in their graves. . . But the book was so compelling that I read it in three days flat.
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