cover image Shadows on the Hudson

Shadows on the Hudson

Isaac Bashevis Singer. Farrar Straus Giroux, $28 (548pp) ISBN 978-0-374-26186-3

Originally published in 1957 as a semi-weekly serial in the Yiddish Daily Forward, this addictive melodrama reflects the thoughtfulness and dark humor of the late Nobel Prize winner's work. It does not suffer from having once been doled out to readers in tiny nuggets: indeed, the erratic, messy way in which people conduct their lives collides most effectively with the neatness of the world-as-village Singer portrays. A self-described Job who builds office buildings, Talmud-loving Boris Makaver stands at the crossroads where the untidy lives of many people intersect, chief among them his refugee friends and the various self-destructive loves of his daughter Anna, a shrewd but troubled businesswoman. When Anna runs off to Florida with Hertz Grein, a Spinoza-spouting investment consultant who tutored her as a child in Warsaw, the damages to Anna's suicidal, do-nothing husband and Grein's forgiving wife provide just one more set of grounds for the metaphysical questions that plague and deepen Singer's characters. These are people for whom serious discussions--whether about communism, debauchery or their own Jewish identity--are as natural as breathing itself, for whom every new home--whether Hollywood, Miami, Israel or New Jersey--holds out the elusive prospect of spiritual peace. As with Dickens, Trollope or Dostoyevski, contemporary readers will find themselves resisting Singer's eventful plot in order to parcel this book out as the series of treats it once was. (Jan.)