cover image Suddenly, Love

Suddenly, Love

Aharon Appelfeld. Schocken, $25 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8052-4295-9

This compact novel by prolific Israeli author Appelfeld (The Iron Tracks) movingly embraces the themes of love, faith, and redemption between two disparate Jewish generations. Ernst Blumenfeld, 70, is divorced and resides in Jerusalem. He retired from a brokerage firm and is now a frustrated novelist. Two years prior, he hired Irena, a single 36-year-old woman who only finished the 10th grade, to work as his housekeeper and caretaker, and they became friends. An ardent Communist who persecuted the Jews in his youth in the Ukraine, Ernst grew estranged from his Jewish shopkeeper parents and served with distinction in the Red Army during the Second World War. Now he’s ill, he suffers from bouts of depression, and he’s haunted by his past; he fights these afflictions by penning his memoir. Unlike Ernst, Irena enjoyed a warm relationship with her late parents, who were Auschwitz survivors. She understands Ernst’s need to make peace with his past, and she inspires him as “the gateway to life.” Ernst passionately writes about his idyllic boyhood spent with his grandparents in the Carpathian Mountains, and he and Irena fall in love. As Ernst’s health worsens, the steadfast Irena only grows more protective of him. Appelfeld tells their affecting tale told in clean, spare prose. (May)