Frederick Busch, Author . Norton $25.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-393-04978-7

The legacies of betrayal, illicit love, guilt and loss haunt the protagonist of Busch's powerful new novel, a meditation on the long reach of history, and its aftermath of alienated souls. The son of Polish immigrants who escaped the Nazis by fleeing to England and then to the U.S., Alexander Lescziak is a successful Manhattan psychoanalyst, well trained in eliciting the secrets of the heart. Now middle-aged, long married to Liz, a painter, he becomes aware that his own life's secrets are threatening to overwhelm him. During his childhood, his mother's mysterious neurosis damaged Alex, rendering him distant and aloof. His marriage is slowly dying of desiccation, and it's possible that Liz is being unfaithful with their best friend. Alex himself has committed the ultimate moral and professional sin by commencing a passionate affair with a suicidal patient, Nella Grensen, herself a child of Holocaust survivors. Nella disappears, and a distraught Alex is simultaneously faced with another dilemma, the challenge of a smarmy man who claims he's the illegitimate son of Alex's mother and a German POW with whom she had a clandestine relationship during the family's stay in England's Lake District. Moreover, the purported half-brother, William Kessler, is a spokesperson for a group claiming that the Holocaust is a myth invented by Jews to vilify innocent Germans. (The novel is set in 1985, with the furor over President Reagan's visit to SS graves in Bitburg providing historical context.) Almost overcome with depression, Alex retreats into his imagination, conjuring up vivid scenes of his mother's adultery and his father's secret sacrifices. While the novel's emotional landscape is bleak, Busch's portrait of a man trying to surmount his demons is masterful. The author of The Night Inspector and 18 other richly insightful novels again explores the human condition with precision and compassion. 5-city author tour. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/04/2002
Release date: 02/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Library Binding - 430 pages - 978-1-58547-350-2
Paperback - 365 pages - 978-0-345-46051-6
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-393-34768-5
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