Go Along for the Ride: Fare Forward
Wendy Dubow Polins
Hamilton Hall Press
Novelist Wendy Dubow Polins uses a line in T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets – “what we call the beginning, is often the end and to make an end is to make a beginning. Not fare well, but fare forward, Voyagers” – to launch readers on a metaphysical voyage. Fare Forward is an intelligent, thoughtful novel that probes the connections between mysticism, art, architecture, quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theory of relativity and fate. What could be daunting subject matter is, in Polins’ skilled hands, both thought provoking and fun.
Gabriella Vogel is an architecture student at Columbia University and the granddaughter of a world-famous scientist who is poised to receive the Nobel Prize for work that will upend conventional notions of time. At times able to “see” things at times before they happen, Gabriella is particularly attuned to the emotions that bind the worlds of art and science together. Her grandmother Sophie tells her that the painter Mark Rothko “wanted to question the physics, the science of your grandfather, ‘so complicated’ he used to say. But you see, they were all looking for answers – just in different mediums. Physics or art, it doesn’t really matter, right? We are all searching for something.”
At Columbia, Gabriella’s own voyage shifts direction when she meets – and falls for — the charismatic and enigmatic Benjamin Landsman, a scientist who has known her family since 1943 and who hasn’t aged since. Gabriella’s search for answers about Benjamin lead her to realize that “things are not always what they seem.” As Gabriella unravels a centuries-old family secret, she is drawn to understand that her own odyssey’s beginning is its end – and that its end is its beginning.
Set in the Judean Desert, Jerusalem, Gloucester, Massachusetts, and New York City, Fare Forward spans more than sixty years in the history of the Vogel family. Polins, an architect herself, is a gifted scene-setter, perfectly capturing everything from the sweep of the shore in Gloucester to the way “the most solid forms become skeletal” at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in Manhattan. Gabriella’s experiences as a Columbia student are made that much more convincing by a “cameo” appearance from the late Columbia English professor Wallace Gray, from whom she takes a poetry class.
While Fare Forward is a convincing exploration of the very real junctions between mysticism and science, poetry and art, it is also, at heart, a good old-fashioned love story that puts a new twist on an age-old question: can Gabriella’s love for Benjamin survive the test of time? Fare forward – and find out for yourself.
Fare Forward is available at amazon.com.