cover image The Marriage Artist

The Marriage Artist

Andrew Winer, Holt, $26 (384p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9178-6

Winer's powerful and ambitious second novel (after The Color Midnight Made) is nothing less than an attempt to unearth the essence and meaning of life passed on by those who survived the Holocaust. The double suicide of art critic Daniel Lichtmann's wife and her artist lover, Benjamin Wind, whose art Daniel has championed, compels Daniel to find out what caused the two to jump from Benjamin's studio window. Daniel discovers that Benjamin's family were not Blackfoot Indians, as Benjamin had been led to believe by his embittered father, but Austrian Jews, and his grandfather, Josef Weiner, created staggeringly beautiful ketubot (Jewish marriage contracts) that earned him fame in prewar Vienna but were also responsible for his downfall. Daniel learns of the family's horrific experiences at the hands of the Nazis while trying to piece together the reasons his wife's life ended on a sidewalk next to an artist whose family tragedies are so strangely hidden. Though questions remain unanswered, Winer packs the story with intriguing ideas and metaphors so movingly articulated that it's easy to forgive him for sometimes forgetting to plug a few holes in his audacious plot. (Nov.)