cover image As Close to Us as Breathing

As Close to Us as Breathing

Elizabeth Poliner. LB/Boudreaux, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-0-316-38414-8

Poliner’s (Mutual Life & Casualty) novel is an exquisitely written investigation of grief and atonement, and an elegy for a Jewish family bound together by tradition and tribe. The three Syrkin sisters, Ada, Vivie, and Bec, and their children spend their summers—joined by their husbands on the weekend—at the family cottage in the Jewish section of Woodmont, Conn., known as Bagel Beach. In the summer of 1948, though, “our worlds collapsed... we made sure they did,” after the accidental death of Ada and Mort’s youngest, Davy. The prices paid for redemption, necessary or not, are highest for Bec, the only unmarried Syrkin sister, and Ada and Mort’s oldest son, Howard. Also affected is Davy’s sister and the book’s narrator, Molly, 12 at the time. Tradition and “doing right” run through the novel, extending back a generation and tying together Mort’s bachelor brother Nelson, Bec, and Howard in a wonderfully sad synchronicity. That Molly reveals so little of herself while stories unfold all around her is a marvelous device Poliner uses to impel the reader forward. Agent: Duvall Osteen, the Aragi Agency. (Mar.)