This week’s other featured books, “Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story,” by Jonathan LaPoma and “What Falls Away is Always: Poems and Conversations,” by Richard Terrill, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.
THE BOOK: Guesthouse for Ganesha.
THE AUTHOR: Judith Teitelman.
PUBLISHED IN: 2019.
THE PUBLISHER: She Writes Press — award-winning hybrid publisher for women recognized in 2019 as Independent Publisher of the Year
SUMMARY: Left at the altar, spurned—what does that do to a young woman’s heart? And why would a Hindu God care?
In 1923, seventeen-year-old Esther Grünspan arrives in Köln “with a hardened heart as her sole luggage.” Thus begins a twenty-two-year journey, woven against the backdrops of the European Holocaust and the Hindu Kali Yuga (the “Age of Darkness” when human civilization degenerates spiritually), in search of a place of sanctuary. Throughout her travails, using cunning and shrewdness, Esther relies on her masterful tailoring skills to help mask her Jewish heritage, navigate war-torn Europe, and emigrate to India.
Esther’s traveling companion and the novel’s narrator is Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu God worshipped by millions for his abilities to destroy obstacles, bestow wishes, and avenge evils. Impressed by Esther’s fortitude and relentless determination, born of her deep―though unconscious―understanding of the meaning and purpose of love, Ganesha, with compassion, insight, and poetry, chooses to highlight her story because he recognizes it is all of our stories―for truth resides at the essence of its telling.
Weaving Eastern beliefs and perspectives with Western realities and pragmatism, Guesthouse for Ganesha is a tale of love, loss, and spirit reclaimed.
THE BACK STORY: This novel reflects a range of life-long interests and personal passions, most especially that of eastern philosophies and perspectives, overall, and the Hindu God Ganesha, in particular.
The significant spark that conceived the gist of this story was finding out, at the family lunch following my grandmother’s funeral, that she, Esther, had been abandoned at the altar by her true love when she was a young woman. I only knew my grandmother as a mean-spirited, bordering on nasty, woman. It was difficult and unpleasant to be around her. Trying to be, at least somewhat, understanding, I attributed that her experiences during WWII—having to give up two daughters, leave her husband and home, struggle to survive, etc.—had hardened her irreparably.
But, no, it had been love. More precisely, lost love, devastated love, abandoned love—something most of us experience at one time or another—that had made her callous, unyielding, relentless, and self-absorbed the rest of her life. This informed all her actions. Yet also, and importantly, it made her a survivor.
I was shocked and wished I had known this while she was still alive. It was the first time in my life that I felt true compassion for my grandmother and a clear understanding of her. This new knowledge was especially poignant because I, too, had recently experienced deep heartbreak.
Consequently, though the route—an 18-year journey betwixt and between consulting and teaching and life et al—was quite circuitous and often unwieldy, filled with a lot of internal resistance, I felt compelled to honor her and this all too common, even universal experience. Equally, I felt it important to situate her story in the largest context possible—reflected by, and with the views and insights and perspectives of not just an omnipotent narrator, but a Hindu God.
WHY THIS TITLE? To an extent, the title, Guesthouse for Ganesha, is illuminated in the Rumi poem, “The Guest House,” the preface to my novel.
This being human is a guesthouse. Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thoughts, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Guesthouse for Ganesha’s likely reader is someone who is curious, compassionate, loves language (e.g. relishes looking up unfamiliar words in the dictionary), an interweaving of illusion and realism, layered perspectives, and a strong, relentless protagonist. Also, they are interested in world cultures, travel, and spirituality.
Significantly, I consider my novel much more than the historical context within which the story resides. I feel its theme is universal—love. The thread that unites us. And heartbreak, which also unites us. In essence, it is a novel about what it means to be human.
“Teitelman paints an intensely beautiful world in which different cultures merge in surprising ways. . . . A rich and moving story about an unlikely pair.” –Kirkus Reviews
“Readers who are drawn to stories about maintaining faith in challenging times, particularly those with religious views rooted in a pluralist approach to theism rather than any single system’s tenets, will find Esther’s epiphany moving. The relationship between the two strands of narrative, one human and one deity, invites readers to consider the relationship between the secular and sacred in their everyday lives. And the interstices in Teitelman’s narrative, where specific religious systems connect and collide, suggest a comforting movement toward harmony. Most importantly, Esther survives; hers is a hopeful tale.” –Los Angeles Review of Books
“Spiritual, socially astute, politically chilling, and psychologically gripping, Guesthouse for Ganesha is the kind of novel marketers hate and readers love because it challenges simple categorization. . . . Neither a Holocaust story nor Hindu legend, Guesthouse for Ganesha blends elements of both with an exceptional attention to vivid detail and transformation that results in a thoroughly unexpected, delightful dance through life.” –Midwest Book Review
“Poignant and lyrical . . . Guesthouse for Ganesha is a huge literary success, from the skillful handling of plot elements to the meticulous weaving of historical elements into the story to the gorgeous prose.” –Readers’ Favorite, FIVE STAR review
AUTHOR PROFILE: Judith Teitelman has straddled the worlds of arts, literature, and business since she was a teenager and worked her first job as a salesperson at a B. Dalton/Pickwick Bookstore. Life’s journeys took her from bookstores to commercial fine art galleries to the nonprofit arts and cultural sector, in which she has worked as staff, consultant, and educator for more than three decades. Throughout this time, Teitelman continued her pursuit of all things literary. Guesthouse for Ganesh is her debut novel. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three beloved cats.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: To learn more about my novel’s evolution, please check out one of these interviews:
The opening pages can be read and/or listened to here: https://www.amazon.com/Guesthouse-Ganesha-Novel-Judith-Teitelman/dp/1631525212/
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Guesthouse for Ganesha is available in paperbook, ebook, and audio formats wherever books are sold. Some popular links are below. Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Guesthouse-Ganesha-Novel-Judith-Teitelman/dp/1631525212/
Most sites offer generous discounts.
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: