Yevgeny Gelman, grandfather of Slava Gelman, “didn’t suffer in the exact way” he needs to have suffered to qualify for the restitution the German government has been paying out to Holocaust survivors. But suffer he has–as a Jew in the war; as a second-class citizen in the USSR; as an immigrant to America. So? Isn’t his grandson a “writer”?
High-minded Slava wants to put all this immigrant scraping behind him. Only the American Dream is not panning out for him–Century, the legendary magazine where he works as a researcher, wants nothing greater from him. Slava wants to be a correct, blameless American–but he wants to be a lionized writer even more.
Slava’s turn as the Forger of South Brooklyn teaches him that not every fact is the truth, and not every lie a falsehood. It takes more than law-abiding to become an American; it takes the same self-reinvention in which his people excel. Intoxicated and unmoored by his inventions, Slava risks exposure. Cornered, he commits an irrevocable act that finally grants him a sense of home in America, but not before collecting a price from his family.
I made two important discoveries while reading this book: 1-Boris Fishman is an extremely gifted writer. 2-I am not a fan of dark comedy.
Fishman is on par with Gary Shteyngart. Both create energetic and diverse characters. Blending humor with serious subject matter isn’t easy, yet these two authors have no issues in making the task a success.
Fishman’s debut is character driven. He assembled quite a vibrant and exciting cast from varying circumstances. The protagonists range from cantankerous, privileged to sage souls. The immigrant factor adds to the characters as well as the plot.
Fishman’s writing feels as if it’s animated, vigorous and at times a stream of consciousness. His writing lends texture and dimension. Humor seems to be his forte, there were times I laughed out loud, completely caught off guard. At times his writing was downright emotional revealing his ability to switch gears at a moments notice.
Slava is a character that is all over the place and this detail endears him to the reader. No matter how flawed Slava is somehow Fishman convinces the reader to look past and find a soft spot for this questionable man and you do. Full of sarcasm, this novel clearly points out life’s amusing moments.
I enjoyed Fishman’s writing despite dark comedy failing to align with my taste. I will read his next novel to satiate my curiosity in seeing if he has ventured out or plans on clinging to dark comedy. Wonderful debut effort, clearly an author with literary talent. A story posing a few question both trivial and serious, addressing family, honor and justice.