cover image The Escape Artist

The Escape Artist

Judith Katz. Firebrand Books, $26.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-1-56341-085-7

Katz (Running Fiercely Toward a High Thin Sound) lives up to her first novel's potential in this moving, funny, wholly original picaresque about a nice Jewish girl who, in 1913, leaves Poland for the New World under what are--to say the least--unusual circumstances. When Tutsik Goldenberg comes to Warsaw, claiming to be a lonely Argentine diamond merchant in search of a wife, Sofia Teitelbaum's parents quickly make the match. As soon as the couple heads west, however, Sofia learns that Tutsik has bigger, more devious things in mind than marriage. He smuggles her into Buenos Aires to work as a prostitute for his sister, Madam Perle (an observant Jew who won't let her women work on Fridays but insists on instructing them herself in the art of love). Sofia narrates her adventures to ""Hankus,"" another Polish-Jewish woman who, masquerading as a man, has made her life as a magician. The pasts and common destiny of these two remarkable women--related with perfect timing in Sofia's convincing Yiddish-tinged English--come together beautifully in this nicely crafted, emotionally satisfying and well-researched historical fiction. (May)