1. The Mathematician's Shiva, by Stuart Rojstaczer. One of our two co-sponsored events this fall with the UWM Stahl Center for Jewish Studies. It's about a noted female mathematician who nonetheless never won the top math prize, and her son, who is a meterologist (oy, applied math!) who is tasked with organizing her memorial (and shiva), only to find her home overrun with other mathematicians. Plus it's set in Madison. I enjoyed. it--reminded me of early Michael Chabon.
2. The Betrayers, by David Bezmozgis. Another fall event, and I read this one two. A Soviet dissident winds up in Israel where he becomes a notable politician. When the book opens, he and his mistress have been outed in the Israeli press. They are hoping to hide out in Crimea, only the home they wind up renting a room from turns out to be that of a one-time enemy. An interesting character study, inspired by Natan Sharansky, almost feels like a stage play. And I should note the book was shortlisted for the Giller Prize.
3. A Replacement Life, by Boris Fishman. Now we're getting into unread territory, but I hope to have this finished before our event for the paperback on February 26, 2015. It's the story of a failed journalist who is convinced to forge Holocaust restitution claims. The book had a front-page New York Times review and has a nice recommendation from Arthur Phillips: ""A novel that works beautifully on many levels. It's about the compromises involved in telling any story...Boris Fishman finds a new way to negotiate these tensions, a new language, even as he sometimes shows how he does it, a little magic act all its own."
4. Love and Treasure, by Ayelet Waldman. A dying scholar, who was once an American soldier guarding the Hungarian gold train, riches taken from the Jews and not generally returned, asks his granddaughter to return a piece of jewelry in his possession to the original owner. Who do I quote, Daniel Handler or Philippa Gregory? I'll split the difference and go with Michael Ondaatje: "One is quickly caught up in Love and Treasure with its shifting tones
and voices--at times a document, a thriller, a love story, a
search--telescoping time backwards and forwards to vividly depict a
story found in the preludes and then the after-effects of the Holocaust.
Waldman gives us remarkable characters in a time of complex and
5. Henna House, by Nomi Eve. Set among the Yemenite Jews of the early 20th century, Adela Damari must find a husband before her parents die, or by the Orphans Decree, she will be taken as a Muslim. But things start to get dire when her possible matches fail, even when her aunt, uncle and cousin come to town and try to help. Eventually, even if she does marry she is forced to leave, but telling why would be giving away the ending (though if you know you're history, it's not a surprise twist). Who knew Jews liked henna tattoos? I thought that was a Hindu thing.
6. The Museum of Extraordinary Things, by Alice Hoffman. Alas, Hoffman did not see Hanukkah as a hardcover, with her paperback publication in nine months. But this story, set in 1911, about a Jewish family that runs a freak show on Coney Island is, per Gregory Maguire, "a New York City tale rich with literary inspiration, history, and urban
legend. Readers often talk about being immersed in novels; this is a
satisfying swim in tidal waters." Reviews were great on this, and we had a nice Boswell read as well.
7. The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street, by Sarah Jane Gilman. A customer put this on my radar after she told me how much she liked this book. Years ago we did well with her memoir, Hypocrite in a Poufy White Dress. It's the story of a Russian emigre, who finds success as a purveyor of ice cream. But the transformation starts when this Jewish girl is adopted and raised by Italians. Booklist calls this "an ambitious and lavish immigrant rags-to-riches-to-rags first novel rife with humor and moxie."
8. Like No Other, by Una LaMarche. This one's categorized as young adult, but I can imagine an adult enjoying it as well. Here's Boswellian Jannis's recommendation: "Devorah and Jax both live in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn but come from entirely different worlds. Devorah is a Hasidic Jew who lives within the strict confines of her religion. Jax is an outgoing and funny African-American who lives with his sisters and West Indian immigrant parents. The two meet accidentally one night in an elevator when the power goes out during a storm. At first Devorah is terrified, as she's not supposed to speak to boys or men without adults around. But a spark is set off between the two of them and they can't stop thinking about one another. Jax and Devorah try everything possible to see each other but eventually the odds are stacked against them. Devorah is a strong-willed and smart young woman chaffing against the confines of her strict community. She loves her family and her religion but not the path that is set out for her. The story is told in alternating chapters over the course of a few weeks. This is a satisfying young adult romance." The book was also on a lot of summer recommendation lists.