Today I have a review of Jerusalem as a Second Language by Rochelle Distelheim. A big thank you to Over the River PR for my invitation to the tour and for the gifted book.
GIVEAWAY: I also have a very special giveaway today for my US followers. If you’d like to enter to win a copy of Jerusalem as a Second Language, as well as Rochelle Distelheim’s first book, written when she was 90 years old, Sadie in Love, please comment below (please feel free to comment, too, even if you aren’t entering). Ms. Distelheim has since passed away before the publication of this book, and I am honored to be part of the tour celebrating its release.
Historical fiction fans you are going to love this book.
I’ve not read a book set in “new” Russia, just as the Soviet Union is dissolved in 1998. I learned so much about the culture of Russian Jews in this story of family. I loved that Manya is a pianist and Yuri is a mathematician. They have decided to relocate to Israel.
Faith is at the center of this family’s life. There facts are all interesting, and I soaked them up. I cherished the characters and their relationships with each other. There are even touches of humor amid glimpses of tragedy and strife.
The story is character-driven and rich in family dynamics, and as I mentioned earlier, all the culture.
I definitely plan to read Sadie in Love. I wish Ms. Distelheim’s family my sincere condolences.
About the Book:
It is 1998. The old Soviet Union is dead, and the new Russia is awash in corruption and despair. Manya and Yuri Zalinikov, secular Jews — he, a gifted mathematician recently dismissed from the Academy; she, a talented concert pianist — sell black market electronics in a market stall, until threatened with a gun by a mafioso in search of protection money. Yuri sinks into a Chekhovian melancholy, emerging to announce that he wants to “live as a Jew” in Israel. Manya and their daughter, Galina, are desolate, asking, “How does one do that, and why?”
And thus begins their odyssey — part tragedy, part comedy, always surprising. Struggling against loneliness, language, and danger, in a place Manya calls “more cousin’s club than country,” Yuri finds a Talmudic teacher equally addicted to religion and luxury; Manya finds a job playing the piano at The White Nights supper club, owned by a wealthy, flamboyant Russian with a murky history, who offers lust disguised as love. Galina, enrolled at Hebrew University, finds dance clubs and pizza emporiums and a string of young men, one of whom Manya hopes will save her from the Israeli Army by marrying her.
Against a potpourri of marriage wigs, matchmaking television shows, disastrous investment schemes, and a suicide bombing, the Zalinikovs confront the thin line between religious faith and skepticism, as they try to answer: What does it mean to be fully human, what does it mean to be Jewish? And what role in all of this does the mazel gene play?