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Book Review of "The Flight of the Veil" by Bruce J. Berger

The Flight of the Veil, by Bruce J. Berger, is literary/psychological fiction with a historical background.  In 1990, Nicky Covo is a successful psychiatrist in his sixties practicing in Brooklyn, New York. Covo, of Jewish descent, was born in Greece before WWII. He struggles with flashbacks of his shame and trauma as a 14-year-old Greek citizen-soldier in 1944. The unspeakable horrors he experienced grew larger in his psyche. As time passed, it was harder to distinguish reality from fantasy or from nightmares. Things that he had done and gotten away with haunted him and threatened to be revealed.

Unexpectedly, a letter arrives from Abbess Fevronia of the Holy Monastery of St. Vlassios, in Greece.  She has been searching for the brother of a nun living in the monastery. Sister Theodora is an enigma with select mutism. Throughout the forty-plus years the Abbess has known the nun, she has tried to discover her history. Her research led to Nicky Covo.

The plot develops with alternate voices piecing together the backstories of both Nicky and Fevronia. Both have been victims of war with unresolved issues. Nicky disbelieves that Sister  Theodora could be his younger sister, Kal, a devout Jew thought to have been murdered with the rest of his family during the Holocaust. How could she now be a pious Greek Orthodox nun?
With the encouragement of his adult children, Nicky travels to Greece. He is accompanied by Helen, a love interest and an old friend. Helen provides calming, logical views to Nicky’s increasing anxiety as they visit the scenes of the secrets and horrors of war that cause him terrifying nightmares.  Memories of grief, guilt, and shame.

In a bizarre twist, Nicky and Theodora do acknowledge their relationship, but supernatural miracles challenge acceptance. Nicky had renounced his Jewish heritage and belief in a supreme being, while Theodora relates how both their lives were saved by what can be explained only as acts of God. The plot balances the conflicted views of Nicky’s atheism, the religious, spiritual traditions of Helen, and Theodora’s immersion in prayer and Greek Orthodox theology into a fascinating subplot. Nicky’s trip proves to be an emotional and spiritual catharsis. He experiences love, survival, loyalty, betrayal, and redemption: spiritually and emotionally.

Berger’s use of the Hebrew language and Jewish terminology, and the religious traditions and practices of Christian Orthodoxy enhance the tension of the plot. Nicky struggles with Theodora’s story. Could the incorporeal veil be a dream or hallucination? He ponders whether Theodora can be at peace with her Jewish heritage.  Will knowing him enhance or invalidate her profound religious faith?

This novel is another look into the devastating effects of war, emotionally and spiritually, on both soldiers and citizens, even forty years after the conflict. The author presents a balance across religious observations and beliefs and will challenge the spiritual beliefs of the reader. A deeply uncomfortable read, The Flight of the Veil is a sad and seductive tale of the unflinching horrors of war and its chilling aftermath.


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