cover image The Polish Woman

The Polish Woman

Eva Mekler, . . Bridge Works, $21.95 (250pp) ISBN 978-1-882593-99-6

In this unembellished he-said-she-said, Karolina Staszek, a Polish-Catholic sculptor working as a nanny in 1967 Manhattan, tells her Jewish employer, Noah Landau, that she may be his cousin—a cousin thought to have died decades before in a Nazi death camp. She throws his family into turmoil. Although Karolina's claim is based on the flimsiest of childhood memories, Noah believes the mysterious foreigner he's also infatuated with and sends her to persuade his cynical lawyer cousin, Philip. Is Karolina really the daughter of their recently deceased Uncle Jake, who hid her from the Nazis with rabidly anti-Semitic Polish farmers who took Jake's money only to disappear with Karolina after the war so they wouldn't have to return her? Or perhaps she's a charming fraud with designs on the nephews' sizable inheritance, or a pathetic soul who's appropriating someone else's wartime experience in order to repress her familial and national guilt over the Holocaust? The characters' motivations, particularly in their love lives, are often underdeveloped, but Mekler's (Sunrise Shows Late ) emotionally tantalizing tale is simply and lucidly written and offers an unflinching look at Polish anti-Semitism and the destruction it wreaked on both Jewish and Polish psyches long after WWII. (Feb. 1)