cover image Red, White, and Blue

Red, White, and Blue

Susan Isaacs. HarperCollins Publishers, $25 (407pp) ISBN 978-0-06-017608-2

The story of Jewish immigrants in America is a staple of commercial fiction. Still, it is a surprise to find Isaacs, usually the provider of zippy dialogue and suspenseful plots, writing a lackluster novel in this genre. In the first part of this multigenerational saga, she follows the offspring of Dora Schottland and Herschel Blaustein, loutish products of European shtetls whose unhappy union produces descendants who will exemplify dramatically different American experiences. Jake Blaustein, larcenous grifter and general no-goodnik, stays one step ahead of the law by decamping a train in Wyoming, where he changes his name to Blair, marries a half-Indian woman and forgets his Jewish heritage. His sister, Ruthie, stays in New York and marries a successful Jewish lawyer who is killed in WWII. Her children and grandchildren remain identifiably Jewish but not religiously observant. In the second half of the book, the great-great-grandchildren of Dora and Herschel meet (unaware of the fact that they are related, however). Lauren Miller, reporter for the Long Island Jewish News, encounters her distant cousin, FBI agent Charlie Blair, in Jackson Hole. Instant passionate attraction flares between them--though, of course, many obstacles stand in the way of their happiness. Both are on the trail of members of a violent militia that spews racial and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Here the book finally develops some suspense. Isaacs has done her homework well; her depiction of white-supremacist groups is informative and convincing. But the sappy love story overwhelms even this aspect of the narrative, and by the time Isaacs winds up waving the flag in celebration of the values that unite Americans, this sincerely patriotic novel is as heavy as a stale bagel. Editor, Larry Ashmead. Literary Guild main selection; Doubleday Book Club alternate. (Nov.)