The Frumkiss Family Business
The Frumkiss Family Business
A Megilla in 14 Chapters
By Michael Wex
Vintage Books Canada, Paperback, 9780307397775, 361pp.
Publication Date: August 2, 2011
Thomas Mann meets Mordecai Richler in this outstanding novel of great intellect and humour that already reads like a classic.
The Frumkiss family doesn't look much different from any of the others in Toronto's Bathurst Manor. Grandpa survived the Holocaust; Grandma the Second came from Poland at the age of five. Dad's a foot doctor; Mom is dead, and her mother — Grandma Number One —died while giving birth to her in Kazakhstan. Her three kids — the oldest is forty-two — are as frustrated and directionless as most baby boomers with no real financial worries. One's in Toronto, there's one in the suburbs and the third lives in Israel. As far as the Frumkisses know, all that distinguishes them from anybody else is that Grandpa is a famous Yiddish writer who ended up working for the CBC. But Grandpa's death sets off a chain of events that force the Frumkisses to see how different their family is from all the others.
The Frumkiss Family Business, Michael Wex's brilliant and hilarious new novel, is a family saga for the twenty-first century, a lovingly accurate portrait of middle-class Canadian life at the turn of the century and of the Toronto neighbourhood that has produced such famous Canadians as Howie Mandel and Wex himself. Imagine Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks without the stodgy Germans or The Brothers Karamazov with only one brother. Finally, a novel that does for Toronto what Mordecai Richler's books did for Montreal.
“Wex is as irreverent and humorous, [and] he has his own style. . . . Breathtaking. It’s so subtle you don't see what’s coming until . . . all of a sudden something beautiful appears.”
— Winnipeg Free Press
“[Wex has] certainly nailed the Borscht Belt humour. . . . A lively and entertaining fictional debut.”
— Edmonton Journal
“A hilarious portrait of Jewish life in Toronto . . . and a new hero for Yiddish literature, one who, even while portraying that most tragic of birds, the dodo, represents not the extinction of Yiddish culture, but its tenacity.”
— The Globe and Mail
“[Wex] sets out to do for Toronto’s Jews what Mordecai Richler’s fictions did for Montreal’s and Philip Roth’s for Newark’s: paint their portraits so acutely, so knowingly, so as to inspire their apoplectic rage.”
“A good portion of the reading world, including the 2010 Booker Prize jury, finds Harold Jacobson’s The Finkler Question . . . hilarious — I found it tedious. . . . However funny or unfunny Jacobson’s book may be (maybe it just didn’t hit my funny bone), this Canadian-authored entry into the world of Yiddish humour had me chuckling, laughing and sometimes roaring from start to finish. . . . If you are looking for some escapist reading that is totally irreverant and very, very funny, you could do a lot worse than picking up a copy of Wex’s book.”