Molly’s journey is a testament to the will of hope and to the incredibly resilient ability that we all possess to transform our lives. Her Great-Grandmother Ethel’s spectacles are, of course, a metaphor of sorts for the possibility to observe things anew and to look afresh at our lives. What if we could, in a moment, really see what our eyes perceived—? The spectacles reveal to Molly colors, shapes, moods, atmospheres and energies she could not before imagine, but it is Molly who learns to see her world differently over time and trust in the beauty of the heart she glimpses. Her tendency towards the joyful, the curious, and the inspired accompanies Molly as she makes her way through a frightening emigration and arrival in the unknown and overwhelming world of America. From gray grows color, from loss and loneliness grows a desire to connect. And Molly has always been at the center of connectivity. As a baby, she is surrounded by a community of thirty-five unique women whose names are given to her to carry through her life. As an immigrant sailing far from her home, Molly gathers strangers together through the generosity of food shared, and as a young wife and foreigner, she imparts tenderness and engenders solidarity through her spirited presence.
From tiny seeds, miracles grow in Molly’s world. Although hers is a historically and geographically specific story of a girl’s early 20th century coming-of-age in the Russia of her childhood and her young adult immigration to America, The Girl with 35 Names evokes a larger narrative of displacement and acculturation, of longing, loss, and renewal. These are the profound experiences marking any journey of homes lost and recreated. The Girl with 35 Names arrives at a time of great upheaval and uncertainty. We live during a moment marked by the most population displacement and global movement since the end of World War II.
Discourses of fear and hatred are shaping conversations around migration, and borders and entry gateways are opened or closed at a whim, whilst communities of families, children, and young women and men like Molly and Sam are fleeing danger and in urgent need of safe passage and harbor. The Girl with 35 Names reminds us of our potential— our infinite potential— for humanity. It inspires in us our fundamental sense of compassion and instinct for gestures of connectivity. It fills us up with that hope that we may be kind again and see the other with spectacles of love; it leaves us with the impression we have been visited by small miracles.
– Maureen Shay, Los Angeles, 2018