cover image Songs for the Butcher's Daughter

Songs for the Butcher's Daughter

Marshall Cook, . . Free Press, $25 (384pp) ISBN 978-1-4165-3870-7

Known for Vows , his memoir of growing up the son of a former priest and nun, Manseau uses an alter ego to tell the story of fictional Yiddish poet Itsik Malpesh, born in the Moldovan city of Kishinev in 1903. Itsik's story is told through his Yiddish memoirs, which he helps a young American Catholic (working, like Manseau once did, as a Yiddish archivist) translate. Inspired by the image of Sasha, the brave butcher's daughter who was present at his birth, Itsik reaches America in young adulthood through haphazard luck, a taste for troublemaking and the inventiveness of a printer. Sasha continually inspires and confounds Itsik throughout his life, becoming an apt symbol for Yiddish humor, sorrow and idealism. As Itsik's darkly picaresque immigrant narrative unfolds, it competes with the translator's modern romance and with insights into the art of translation and the history of Yiddish. Occasional narrative missteps are not enough to undercut this rich, often ironic homage to Yiddish culture and language. (Sept.)