Monday, April 9, 2012

Review: The Yiddish Policeman's Union

Review: The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon

When you hit a reading jag, the best thing is to tackle books you've been meaning to read for years. So as I moved away from novels I wasn't particularly excited about from the Amazon Vine program, I picked up Chabon's 2007 alternative history exploration of a professional killing in Sitka, Alaska, where some 3 million Jews were relocated during and after the Holocaust. In Chabon's world, not only was Israel run over in its infancy, but there's no communist Soviet Union or China, and the Jews may be kicked out of Alaska as their territory reverts to the Alaskan government. Chabon's extra-large imagination conjures a world in which a Yiddish-speaking detective, still reeling from a divorce, the death of his sister and one singularly tragic mistake, discovers the body of a chess player and possible former black hat (Hassidic Jew) in a neighboring room in a flophouse. The investigation leads him all over the Sitka Jewish community, built as a pure fantasy by Chabon, and out into the Alaskan wilderness among hostile natives. Chabon's narrative voice never wavers, and his prose style is so liquid you just cruise along the bouncy narrative, purposely evocative of Raymond Chandler's novels. I'm glad I finally got around to reading this after five years, and now I'm reading for Telegraph Avenue, his next novel, due in the fall.

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