Among the Living

Jonathan Rabb. Other Press, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-59051-803-8

Rabb (The Berlin Trilogy) delves into the struggle to rebuild a life after unfathomable loss in this moving post-war novel. Yitzhak Goldah arrives in Savannah, Georgia, in 1947, two years after being freed from the Nazi camps where he lost his entire immediate family and his fiancé. He has come to the US to live with Abe and Pearl Jesler, his only remaining family, who almost immediately begin calling him Ike to Americanize his name. At just thirty-one, Ike is eager to overcome the trauma he experienced during the war—memories that are shared to great effect via flashback—but finds himself overwhelmed by the expectations of those around him. People stumble over their words, hesitate to ask questions, and use taking care of him as a way to prove their own goodness. But when Ike meets and falls in love with Eva, who comes from Savannah’s Reform community with which the Jesler’s Conservative community clashes, he is suddenly thrust into a longstanding feud between the Jewish communities—a conflict that seems ridiculous to him. His efforts to rebuild his own life are further muddied when the fiancé he believed to be dead shows up on the Jesler’s doorstep. Although some of the drama and tension falls flat, this is an engaging exploration of what happens after unthinkable violence and suffering, and how people struggle both to overcome what they experience directly and make sense of experiences they learn of second-hand. (Oct.)