cover image The Piano Bench

The Piano Bench

Ralph Webster. Ralph Webster, $9.99 e-book (432p) ISBN 979-8-8396-3049-9

Webster (The Other Mrs. Samson) chronicles in his intriguing if meandering latest the life and times of a German Jewish doctor who becomes an “unintended bigamist.” In the frame story, Josef Samson, 82, lives in 1962 New York City with his third wife, Kaethe. Over the course of the narrative, he recounts in admittedly “long-winded” terms how the two came to be together and the secrets he’s kept since the “golden” interwar years of his native Berlin. In 1912, he marries a distant cousin named Hilda and is devastated when she and their unborn child die from a fall three years later. More than a decade passes before he meets and marries a sculptor named Inge, though his mother’s disapproval of Inge, who’s not Jewish, causes the couple to drift apart. In 1928, Josef begins an affair with his mother’s 18-year-old caretaker, Kaethe. Rather than seek a divorce from Inge, Josef leaves for Paris in 1933 and Kaethe, who doesn’t know he’s married, joins him shortly after. Though Josef’s narration is laden with exposition and repetitive self-justification, Webster pulls off a dramatic account of the couple’s topsy-turvy lives during WWII: interned in 1939 France due to their German background, they’re released following the 1940 German invasion, get married, and flee to the U.S. after the Nazis begin rounding up Jews. Historical fiction fans will delight in this poignant saga. (Self-published)