“Alternating between outrageousness and wonder, Stern composes with verve and nerve. He is a throwback to the Yiddish sublime.” —Harold Bloom
Through numerous books and stories, Steve Stern has become known for his fantastical (and often wildly comic) stories based on Yiddish folklore — Harold Bloom has called him “a throwback to the Yiddish sublime.” But with this novella, Stern matches his reverential understanding of that ancient story-telling’s power against something he’s never written about before: the Holocaust.
The result is a mesmerizing tour-de-force: in a boxcar crammed with Jews headed to a concentration camp, one man attempts to summon up a story vital enough to displace the horror.
The story that comes out is ultimately a swirling, sweeping saga about the stirring obstinacy of the human spirit. And by confronting the ultimate horror with the mythology he has long celebrated, it may also be the crowning achievement of Stern’s career.
“These seven stories, written with great brio, portray zany Jewish family life ever so slightly haunted by demons. Steve Stern may be a late practitioner of the genre [of Yiddish folklore] but he is an expert one. Whiplash sentences, lots of energy and charm.” —Susan Sontag
“I am a zealous admirer of his one-of-a-kind imagination and magical sentences.” —Cynthia Ozick
“To be a true inheritor of a tradition carries with it the responsibility of expanding that tradition and keeping it vital. … Steve Stern does both. Only a writer with a deep reverence for and a connection with the ancient story-telling power of his rich folkloric sources could concoct the often irreverently comic twists that distinguish these genuinely marvelous – and always vital – stories.” —Stuart Dybek
“Touching, funny and dizzying as well as delicate in its virtuosity.” —Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
“Stern has tapped a direct bloodline, creating an important work of deep themes, soaring language and serious implications that is also unceasingly entertaining.” —Alana Newhouse, The Los Angeles Times
“The novella — that form of fiction pitched somewhere between the limits of a short story and the roominess of a novel — isn’t so hard to find so long as you know where to look…” —The Memphis Flyer
“Steve Stern’s novella is destined to become a Jewish-American classic. It’s that good.” —Sanford Pinsker, Jbooks