Review: Tomas and the Gypsy Violin

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In his debut novella, Robert Eisenberg tells the story of a Roma boy, Tomas, who is adopted by Canadian parents and brought to live in Toronto. He, like most children in unfamiliar surroundings, is shy and introverted. It doesn’t help that he is judged by his Roma ethnicity, relegating him further into himself and away from his adopted family. By chance, Tomas is reunited with his violin, an instrument taught to him by his biological father. Once reunited, Tomas lets his natural talent and his culture’s love for music shine through. In the process he gains a sense of self that connects him to his new family and friends, and slowly he begins to consider Toronto home.

Tomas and the Gypsy Violin deals with a myriad of relevant themes and it would be nearly impossible to discuss them all. First and foremost, Eisenberg’s novella is heartwarming – the kind of book you would want to read with your children to remedy their anxieties about fitting in as the new school year begins. Tomas’ unapologetic, gut reaction to Canadian culture and his staunch defiance to hold on to his own is endearing and will strike a chord with many readers. On a more serious note, Eisenberg’s work brings to the surface a discussion usually dismissed from national narratives: the prejudice and social stigma faced by Roma communities in Eastern Europe, where they are most prevalent, and in North America. At its core, however, Tomas and the Gypsy Violin is really about acceptance and the willingness to be open to change regardless of how frightening it may be. Whether you are an adult, adolescent or tween, Tomas and the Gypsy Violin is a thought-provoking, quick read, capable of inspiring and simultaneously educating its readers.

– Maisha Krugmann

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