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Reminiscent of a Hasidic tale in its deceptively quiet, gentle tone, this masterful debut offers up its darkest secrets with heartbreaking delicacy. The son of a rabbi in Windsor, Ontario, Aryeh Alexander ben Shelomo lives in a sheltered world tightly circumscribed by his parents' friendship with the family of Cantor Bernard Seidengarn, which includes his wife, Berenice, and his twin sister (and fellow Auschwitz survivor), Hannalore. This tight-knit family circle can't banish unspoken memories of the Holocaust, memories that debilitate Alexander and send him into escapist reveries. When his mother, Sarah, worries over his daydreaming ways, the three women consult a gypsy "prophetess"; later, when 16-year-old Alexander withdraws to his room for a year, his father consults a Hasidic rebbe. Thus buffeted between "my mother's uncontrollable fears and my father's unanswerable intellectual and spiritual pursuits," Alexander harbors a disturbing secret, a secret even he doesn't fully understand, about the horrors that the twins suffered in the laboratory of Auschwitz's mad doctor Josef Mengele. Though steeped in religious sensibility and learning, this warm, contemplative novel works on its readers' most visceral sympathies and fears. German rights to Kindler Verlag; Dutch rights to Meulenhoff. (Sept.) FYI: Stollman, the son of a rabbi, is an interventional neuroradiologist whose stories have appeared in Story, the Yale Review, American Short Fiction and Tikkun. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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Windsor, Ontario, is the setting for this mystical debut novel, a coming-of-age story about the lonely son of Holocaust survivors. Alexander's parentsa rabbi and his fearful wife, along with the cantor and his wife, who live next door, try to protect the young boy, raising him in a tangle of "secrets and lies." But he learns that his mother has a brother in a mental institution and that the cantor and his sister were part of Josef Mengele's "medical" experiments on twins in Auschwitz. He tries to emulate his academic father and the grandfather he never knew by accumulating endless knowledge about the secrets of the universe. Alexander's small world is delightfully peopled by uncommon folk, and philosophical questions about the post-Holocaust world are probed through many of the boy's adventures. Highly recommended for all fiction collections.Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, Md. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Alexander, the son of a rabbi living in Windsor, Ontario, is the protagonist of this riveting first novel. At age 16, Alexander, who mastered two languages while still in kindergarten, withdraws to his room for almost a year. His father, a would-be writer, spends his life working on a trilogy. His mother, verging on madness, retreats into isolation for nine months with an imaginary pregnancy. His mother's best friend is married to a cantor who--along with the cantor's twin sister--survived the unspeakable medical experiments inflicted on twins by Dr. Josef Mengele in Auschwitz. It is the cantor and his sister--and the horror they went through--that profoundly affect Alexander's life. In an author's note, Stollman says that the events in the book with regard to the fate of twins in Auschwitz are based on historical fact; his brilliantly written novel reveals anew the ferocious hold the Holocaust has on its survivors and their loved ones. --George Cohen