Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fiction - Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander

Publisher: Riverhead
Date: January 12, 2012
Format: ARC
Acquired: from LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book in return for an honest review.)
Pages: 300
Reading time: four days

From GoodReads: The rural town of Stockton, New York, is famous for nothing: No one was born there, no one died there, nothing of any historical import at all has ever happened there, which is why Solomon Kugel, like other urbanites fleeing their pasts and histories, decided to move his wife and young son there. To begin again. To start anew. But it isn't quite working out that way. His ailing mother stubbornly holds on to life, and won't stop reminiscing about the Nazi concentration camps she never actually suffered through. To complicate matters further, some lunatic is burning down farmhouses just like the one he bought. And when, one night, Kugel discovers history - a living, breathing, thought-to-be-dead specimen of history - hiding upstairs in his attic, bad quickly becomes worse.

My review: This is a weird, wacky book, but I totally loved it. I loved Auslander's writing, which is slightly cynical but often funny. I loved the characterizations, even though I'm pretty sure half the characters could be diagnosed with various forms of insanity. I loved the whole concept of the novel, which is basically examining the hold past events, even ones we never could have experienced, can have on our lives. I'm not Jewish and my German-American ancestry goes back way too far to be affected by the legacy of the Holocaust, but I  could completely see the position from which Auslander is writing.

I must admit, I skipped to the ending and skimmed over the last few pages before I finished the book. Surprisingly, I think knowing the outcome actually helped me discover the irony of the build-up to the climax, an irony which is at the root of the novel's title. For once, being an impatient reader was a positive, because I doubt that I would have caught this meaning without knowing the conclusion beforehand. Anyway, Hope: A Tragedy provided a great read for the close of this year, one which I believe is going to stick in my mind for a long time.

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