THE SPEED OF LIGHT

Elizabeth Rosner, Author
Elizabeth Rosner, Author . Ballantine $23.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-345-44224-6
Hardcover - 398 pages - 978-0-7862-4041-8
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-345-44225-3
Ebook - 157 pages - 978-0-307-41741-1
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-10773-1
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The adult children of a holocaust survivor learn about grief, forgiveness and the power of bearing witness from a Latina housekeeper who has also been victimized by government-sponsored genocide in a dark, subtle novel by poet Rosner. Julian and Paula Perel grew up with a somber, uncommunicative father still shell-shocked by his years in Auschwitz. Now with both parents dead, the siblings share a house in Berkeley, Calif. Julian, a recluse, lives an obsessive routine with 11 TVs in various states of disrepair to fend off the sadness that he calls his father's legacy. When Paula, an opera singer as adventurous as her brother is shy, heads to Europe to audition for opera houses and become a star, she asks her housekeeper, Sola Ordinaio, to care for her apartment—and to keep an eye on Julian, whose elaborate rituals govern his life. A wary friendship blossoms between Sola and Julian, and deepens when Sola confesses that she is the only surviving witness of the Mexican government's massacre of her small village. Meanwhile, in Budapest, Paula traces the Perel family's roots and finds someone who tells her a horrible secret about Jacob Perel's time in Auschwitz. Paula feels her confidence faltering and cancels her last auditions to return to Berkeley. There, she finds Julian, with Sola's help, emerging from the emotional paralysis of his life—and decides that she will not allow the tragedies of the past to silence him. The emotional impact of Rosner's material is considerable, but her schematic method of alternating the three voices of her protagonists makes the symmetries between their stories a little too neat. Still, the catharsis is moving, and the final affirmation of life, love and art to erase tragedy is uplifting. Agent, Joelle Delbourgo. 8-city author tour.(Sept.)

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