He needed to be at the beach. On an unseasonably warm Seattle day in early May he rolled up his pant legs, left his shoes, socks, and shirt in the car, dabbed sunscreen on his nose and bald spot, and set off. He stepped gingerly, pebbles and crab shells stinging tender spots on his bare feet. Resting on a seawall, he closed his eyes and felt the sun warming his back. His mind drifted.
Those letters. They obsessed him, the ones his elderly neighbor placed in the outgoing mail bowl in their apartment building lobby every Monday morning. She’d told him she hoped the life lessons she wrote about, how she avoided being held captive by the darkest of Holocaust memories, would inspire her troubled daughter.
If only those letters were being written to him. He desperately needed a pathway out of his despair. Then it came to him and he knew what he must do.
Roger Roffman's beautifully crafted novel, Looking Always, is a transporting story of the ways in which history flows through generations to inspire and wound. Therapist Elliott Sterling is shattered by a patient's suicide, the unraveling of his long marriage, and mounting fears for his thrill-seeking son. When he meets his engaging neighbor Milena Hodrová, an octogenarian Holocaust survivor, Elliott finds an unexpected guide to his complex journey. The vividly drawn characters of Looking Always confront the repressed damage of war within families, from Nazi concentration camps to Korea, Vietnam, and finally to the cartel strongholds of Mexico, and emerge with profoundly changed lives.
--Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett, author of Carolina Israelite: How Harry Golden Made Us Care about Jews, the South, and Civil Rights (The University of North Carolina Press, 2015, 2018.)