In the summer of 1974, Dr. Rose Strongin, a Jewish marine biologist from Atlantic Canada, inexplicably disappears for three hours at an archaeological dig on the Western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Consequently Rose, her husband Simon and their two young daughters miss their return flight from Tel Aviv on TWA 841 which explodes over the Mediterranean killing all aboard. Haunted by the event and with no memory of her disappearance, Rose works to put it out of her head and focus on her work and family. But twelve years later, in 1986, she learns that a 2,000 year old perfectly preserved vessel, dubbed by the press as the "Jesus Boat", is uncovered at the site of her disappearance and she begins to slowly recall the events of her amnesia. The Accidental Pilgrim crosses several decades exploring the intersection of science, religion and the unexplainable as a family gathers to say goodbye to the matriarch who held a family secret.
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About the Author
Author, theatre journalist and opera librettist, Kitsakos is currently commissioned by American Opera Projects to write the libretto for the opera adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's NY Times & international bestseller "A Thousand Splendid Suns" with music by the American composer Sheila Silver. Other works include librettos for the Beverly & Raymond Sackler-Award Winning "The Wooden Sword" and "The White Rooster: A Tale of Compassion" for the Smithsonian Institution.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Accidental Pilgrim based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Reviewed by Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers' Favorite Stephen Kitsakos writes a memorable tale in The Accidental Pilgrim. Old Testament meets New Testament in a phenomenal way! Rose Strongin is a Jewish woman who has shunned her heritage, denied God and the miraculous, and embraced science. Rose is a marine biologist. In 1974, she is asked to join an archaeological expedition on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. On her last day, Rose vanishes for several hours, frightening her family and colleagues. Once she is found, she has no recollection of what occurred during her disappearance. However, over time fragments of memory return. What she remembers is nothing short of the miraculous. But, Rose does not believe in miracles. Her lapse of memory becomes a misadventure that turns into a lifelong pilgrimage for truth. The Accidental Pilgrim by Stephen Kitsakos is a captivating story about one woman’s journey in life. The setting of the story changes locations and time frames frequently. Kitsakos takes his heroine on a personal quest from the streets of Brooklyn to the waters of Canada, the chaos of California, and the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Utilizing a flashback technique, Kitsakos tells the story in a series of remembrances. Maintaining the mysterious mood, each recollection gives a bit of information relevant to the present. Bit by bit, piece by piece, the puzzling story takes shape. The protagonist endures an internal conflict as she struggles to discover the truth. Her character evolves, making drastic changes in personality as she battles the known with the unknown. The Accidental Pilgrim challenges the reader to believe in miracles. After all, if the unexplained could be explained, there would be no need for God. Many of us find Him completely by accident.
Reviewed by Melinda Hills for Readers' Favorite A strange connection exists between Rose Fonseca Strongin and the people and place where she is involved in an archaeological dig in The Accidental Pilgrim by Stephen Kitsakos. Drawn to the study of underwater acoustics, Dr. Strongin’s path leads her to the shores of Lake Galilee in Israel where she experiences an unexplained phenomenon – she simply disappears for over 3 hours with no recollection but retains a strange souvenir. With the delay that causes in her schedule, she and her family miss their flight home to Canada which crashes, killing all aboard. Never able to account for that missing time, Rose forgets about it until coming into contact again with the lead archaeologist whom her husband thinks is her lover. There is a deep connection between Rose and Noah that does not affect her husband, Simon, but it is one that Rose doesn’t explain to anyone until near the end of her life. Rose begins to think she is losing her mind until she is drawn back to the shores famous in biblical accounts and Noah shares the amazing truth with her. Will her husband’s dedication to her last wishes complete Rose’s story? Stephen Kitsakos has masterfully told a tale that spans 2000 years in a strange and unique way. Clearly defined characters full of believable doubts, dreams, struggles and triumphs come together as a family, finding answers they didn’t know they were searching for. Rose’s story is deeply haunting and the amazing connection between Rose, her husband Simon, colleague Noah, and historic Israel will leave you speechless. The Accidental Pilgrim illuminates our possible connections to the past with gentle enlightenment.
Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite The Accidental Pilgrim is a contemporary women's fiction novel written by Stephen Kitsakos. The plot revolves around the historical discovery in 1986 of the Jesus Boat in the Sea of Galilee. However, the story actually begins a number of years before that, in the early 1960s, when a young Brooklyn woman decided to defy her Orthodox Jewish parents' decision that she should become a doctor. Rose still intended to be a doctor, but not the kind that dealt with healing sick people. She would be studying marine biology on the graduate level in St. John, at the University of New Brunswick. Soon after she arrived in Canada, during a ferry crossing she met Simon Strongin, who worked with his father in the family's salmon processing plant. Stephen Kitsakos' contemporary women's fiction novel, The Accidental Pilgrim, blends a historical family saga with metaphysics as it follows Rose and Simon's life together and highlights the missing three hours of her life that would save their lives. While much of the story seems dark, and the reader is privy to some rather uncomfortable inter-familial discord, I particularly enjoyed reading about Rose's academic success, her and Simon's early life together and the events in the story that were set in Israel. Kitsakos' handling of the ancient past and the Jesus Boat is never heavy-handed or didactic, and the subject matter adds an intriguing dimension to the story. The Accidental Pilgrim is intense and thought-provoking, and the characters one meets within its pages are well-defined and engaging, even as they struggle to maintain themselves as a cohesive unit based on blood. It's highly recommended.
Thishis book a gem of a novel. First the story is completely compelling, combining family drama both in the present, as a father and his three grown children come together to pay last respects to his wife/their mother, and in the past, as we meet Rose (the wife/mother) in flashbacks and memories. Actually it's pretty gutsy for a writer to have the main character begin the novel already dead, but this novel is really Rose's story, though her husband (Simon) and her children (Sharon, Barbara, Nathan) have their parts to play. Every single character was memorable, though Nathan is my favorite of the 'children.' I understood his prickly moodiness - he's a musician, after all - and resonated with it. I loved experiencing Rose's journey through her own eyes, and through the eyes of those around her. I also liked the way every character was flawed, and so very real. The two daughters, one like her mother, one more like her father, reminded me of my own aunts and their ability to bicker constantly but still completely love each other. Then there's the setting: most of the novel takes place on the Sea of Galilee, so we get to glimpse both contemporary Israel, and the Israel of the recent past, as well as a few other time-hops that I won't go into for fear of spoiling some truly interesting plot twists. I've never had a particular desire to visit contemporary Israel (my fantasies tend to involve places like Fez, Tangier, or Algiers), but this novel gave me a deep appreciation for a region that is so entwined in political and cultural turmoil that I doubt resolution will ever come. Finally, there is the author's sense of craft. In an email to him yesterday, I commented that I loved the way he told us the way characters pronounced things - it really made me hear the subtle accents - Canadian, American, Russian, Israeli, British, etc. - and added a layer of realism that truly made the novel sing. Specifically, I mentioned a line early in the novel where he describes a character saying the word "kids" with a "k" that sounds like "...a small ball of phlegm stuck in his throat..." That's the first example that struck me, but those little touches and nuances exist throughout the novel.