Pogrebin's (Three Daughters) newest novel is an emotionally affecting but narratively uneven tale of familial love and the ties that bind. Zach Levy grew up in New York City, the child of two Holocaust survivors. From a young age, he is haunted by their tales of the Nazis and the infant son they lost during the war. Upon his bar mitzvah, he promises his mother that when he marries, he will only marry a Jew. This promise carries him into adulthood, as he casually expects his soul mate to appear—and be Jewish. Then he meets Cleo Scott, a politically-minded African American radio show host (and preacher's daughter) at a political event. They are instantly drawn to each other, and even with their differences, they seem perfect for each other. Eventually, she tells him that she's pregnant. He agrees to pay child support but decides to leave. For the next few years, he dates Jewish women with little success. Finally Cleo contacts him to deliver an ultimatum: he can either be part of his son's life or forsake all future contact. Pogrebin has a very deep understanding of the complex world of Holocaust survivor's guilt and generational inheritance of trauma. Zach's hangups are real and powerful. However, for a story that is ostensibly about a man trying to find his soul mate, it veers off sharply into a man trying to decide whether his son is legitimately Jewish, and whether he wants to raise him. Once it stops being about the overwhelming love between Zach and Cleo (which just seems to disappear) and starts focusing on concepts of Jewish identity, the reading experience becomes discordant. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/04/2015 Release date: 05/01/2015 Genre: Fiction
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