A Replacement Life
By Boris Fishman
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780062287878, 321pp.)
Publication Date: June 2014
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A singularly talented writer makes his literary debut with this provocative, soulful, and sometimes hilarious story of a failed journalist asked to do the unthinkable: forge Holocaust-restitution claims for old Russian Jews in Brooklyn, New York.
Yevgeny Gelman, grandfather of Slava Gelman, ''didn't suffer in the exact way'' he needs to have suffered to qualify for the reparations the German government has been paying out to Holocaust survivors. But suffer he has--as a Jew in the war, as a second-class citizen in the USSR, as an immigrant in America. So? Isn't his grandson a ''writer''?
High-minded Slava wants to put all this immigrant-scraping behind him. Only the American dream is not panning out for him: Century, the legendary magazine where he works as a researcher, wants nothing greater from him. Slava wants to be a correct, blameless American--but he wants to be a lionized writer even more.
Slava's turn as the Forger of South Brooklyn teaches him that not every fact is a truth and not every lie a falsehood. It takes more than law-abiding to become an American; it takes the same self-reinvention at which his people excel. Intoxicated and unmoored by his inventions, Slava risks exposure. Cornered, he commits an irrevocable act that finally grants him a sense of home in America--but not before collecting a lasting price from his family.
A Replacement Life is a dark, moving, and beautifully written novel about family, honor, and justice.
Alan Cheuse reviews A Replacement Life, Boris Fishman's humorous account of Holocaust survivors in today's New York. More at NPR.org
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