Jan Surasky
Back to Jerusalem book cover

Eric Hoffer Book Award Winner & Grand Prize Finalist • Pacific Book Awards Winner • Kirkus Featured Review • The Us Review Of Books Recommended Selection

Back to Jerusalem

In the 1970s New York farm girl Jenny Thompson ignores the love of her gentle Mennonite neighbor Jake Martin whose friendship she has cherished to comply with her bitter, overbearing social-climbing mother's wishes for her to marry the richest and most popular boy in town. When her marriage ends in divorce she takes her toddler son to New York city where she finds success in business and the art world. When fate intervenes to reconnect her with Jake, now a high-powered lawyer, two decades later she must choose between heady success and the only love she has ever known.

Beautifully and lyrically written against a backdrop of country dogwoods and meadows and the excitement of fast-paced city life Back to Jerusalem is a vivid and passionate illustration of the complexities of second chances.


Forbidden love and long-held secrets abound in Surasky's compelling coming-of-age novel...artfully portrayed...a quiet but moving story of one woman's reclaiming her life.
Kirkus Review
...an enduring love story, of soul mates, of friends, and of the safety of home...a genuinely interesting read. With vivid imagery and a knack for story-telling, Surasky has created a novel that we all can be drawn into.
Hollywood Book Reviews
...a masterpiece of idyllic scenes this novel is laced with Jerusalem's pastoral vistas. Surasky is equally skilled in developing characters. An absolutely beautiful novel…
Pacific Book Review
Surasky has crafted a beautiful story that is simple yet powerful; one that captures life on a farm and in a small town community and effortlessly flows from the smell of wild flowers to the heat of city apartments and back.
The US Review of Books
Surasky's novel is akin to thumbing through a treasured family photo album. This novel is incredibly warm and welcoming, clearly the product of a sensitive heart.
Portland Book Review


Jenny Thompson looked out over the landscape that was the small town of Jerusalem, New York in the 1970s. A long blade of grass, newly plucked before her climb to her perch on the half-second floor of her family’s run-down barn, hung from her mouth, a reminder of the ones she had used to force the rudimentary sounds of an instrument through as a child when she had finished her chores. Not that she had ever had many. As the child of a successful farmer and owner of a tire store in town, she had mostly helped Mother in the kitchen, putting up jams and jellies and pickles, and pitting the sour cherries they found down by the river.

Often, she had tagged behind Hiram the hired man who fed and watered the horses, and baled the hay while Father plowed the fields that grew feed corn for cattle on neighboring farms, beans and oats, soy beans and sunflowers, and whatever cash crops he found appealing in the new edition of the Farmer’s Almanac. The land was lush and fertile, but the work was hard, and the county still the second poorest in the state.

Sometimes, as a small child, Father would boost her up on the seat of the tractor in front of him, rolling off to the fields to plow or fertilize or sow the seeds that would soon sprout with the rays of the sun and the gentle mists of rain, if they were lucky. It was then she felt protected and all-powerful, especially if the skies were blue and the sun was very hot and strong upon them.

As she sat, Jenny crossed her legs on the rickety floorboards to give herself some leverage. The landscape that lay before her was home to mostly subsistence farming, with a number of pockets of poverty scattered about. The neatly-kept homes and barns of the Mennonites who farmed without electricity intermingled with the farms of the townspeople known as the “English.” Trailers and small, disintegrating homes, in need of paint, with shingles falling from the rooftops, took their place next to clotheslines of shabby, flapping clothes. But, rich in beauty, its flatlands and gentle, rolling hills brought out the rusts, the oranges and the yellows of autumn, the lush greens of summer, the pinks, the lavenders and blues of spring, and the pristine white expanse of winter, as they stretched toward the evergreen-covered mountains of neighboring Bristol.

As she mused, Jenny realized this was the last year she and her friends would be gossiping about school and boys in the meadows and along the lanes of her family’s farm. Seniors, they would soon be scattering to pursue their dreams of the future. Serious Caroline Mackey to Cornell to become a teacher. Flighty, fun Dotty Thatcher to business school a few towns away to learn typing and stenography. Jenny was struck with a mixture of fear and excitement.

“A penny for your thoughts,” shouted a voice from the floor below. Jake Martin looked up, his overalls dirty from farm work, his muscles fairly rippling through the thin shirt he wore beneath it. He was pretty nearly on time, almost always catching Jenny at around four in the afternoon, when he was sure she had finished her chores, and he had finished his. As he climbed the ladder toward the loft, his blond hair, uneven from years of home haircuts, glistened in the late afternoon sun.

He settled on the floorboards next to her, pulling an envelope from his overall pocket. To Jenny, it looked pretty important. An official looking seal on the envelope, and one to match at the top of the letter he pulled from it. “What’s this,” said Jenny, as she wriggled over to give his large frame more room.

“I’ve been accepted at Hobart,” said Jake. “Pa doesn’t know about it. I’m not even sure he’ll want me to go. I know he needs me on the farm. And, I know he thinks higher education is an intrusion into the purity of living. He has strong Mennonite beliefs, and I don’t like to go against his wishes.”

Jenny looked at Jake, so changed from when he first came to Jerusalem, a skinny, twelve-year-old dressed in what she thought were funny clothes. The oldest of a family which came here to follow the cheap land prices, settling on a piece of land next to the Thompson farm that had lain fallow for nearly twenty years. And, they had strange ways. Farming without gas or electricity, traveling about in a strange, black buggy pulled by two lively horses.

At first, Jenny stared, never offering to share her few possessions, but as the months passed, and she saw how much fun they had together, in the few hours they had for playtime, she relented, reveling, as an only child, in the comfort of their companionship. It was then she shared her barrel hoops, laughing and rolling them along with Jake and his five younger brothers and sisters. And, the old, tire swing hanging from the red maple aside from the porch. She and Jake passed many hours pushing the little ones and talking about what they would do when they grew up. They made Jenny laugh, the girls lifting their long skirts on a hot summer’s day to cool their feet in the Thompsons’ shallow stream, the boys donning black hats and turning somber for a Sunday morning service.