Books by Marcie Hershman

SAFE IN AMERICA by Marcie Hershman
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 24, 1995

An ambitious if too carefully calibrated second novel (Tales of the Master Race, 1991) chronicling the life and often perilous times—over the course of three generations—of one Jewish-American family. The story begins in 1967 with the fatal heart attack of family patriarch Evan Eichenbaum—a 1920's Hungarian immigrant, along with wife Vera—and then moves back through the past before fast- forwarding to 1993. Along the way, letters and affidavits are used to give a not always convincing feel of history in the making, as the Eichenbaums confront US immigration authorities, a son's 1940's wartime sacrifice, and the ravages of AIDS in the 90's. Once Vera and Evan accumulate enough money working in New York's garment district, they move to Cleveland and open a successful clothing store. Their three children—Hankus, Teddy, and Joy—regard themselves as Americans, and at first can't understand their parents' mounting anxiety about unfolding events in Europe. As the Nazis advance, Evan and Vera desperately try to get permission for their families to join them, but a rigidly applied quota system and unfounded allegations about a brother-in-law's political leanings confound them. Moved by his parents' concern, Hankus runs away to Canada, enlists, and is killed in battle. When the US enters the war, Evan, fearing that he might lose Teddy, too, buys a farm and insists his son run it, thereby making him ineligible for the draft. This step irrevocably embitters Teddy, who will refuse to visit either his dying father or, later, Joy's son, Hal, who's dying of AIDS. With the emphasis on wartime events and the reactions of Joy and her parents, the 1993 section is rushed, hurried through, seemingly there only to round out the book's premise. A novel with a resonant theme that should tug the heart strings but disappointingly doesn't. (Author tour) Read full book review >
TALES OF THE MASTER RACE by Marcie Hershman
Released: Nov. 6, 1991

Ambitious but lifeless first novel of a fictional town in Germany, between 1939-43, where even ``ordinary'' Aryan citizens are inevitably affected by the Nazi regime. Hershman's portrait and—in effect—indictment of Kreiswald, a town small enough so that most people know one another, is made up of individual stories, with a cast of common characters who increasingly behave as if ``slavery and murder were to be tolerated.'' As Thea, a member of the local resistance, observes: ``There was something called the national good. It entered our lives assiduously, like a whiff of perfume, seducing innocent and intelligent alike; by the end, caught lying with it under our soiled flag, we all stank.'' A sensitive clerk, Thorgood Stella, must record the executions at the police station. Unable to share his horror, he turns away from his young wife Gerda, whose flirtation with police Commander Terskan turns into an affair. Recovering from a stroke in the local hospital, the wife of one of the policemen discovers a hidden ward from which children disappear. An ambitious map-maker hopes to profit from the closing of Jewish businesses. He also embarks on an affair with his landlady, whose husband suddenly returns after working as a builder at Auschwitz. Beloved playmates turn out to be Jewish and are taken away; an amateur musician finds himself caught up in the Nazi enthusiasm as he leads a parade; and a young woman who hates the war is in love with a soldier, who promises her that he ``won't shoot.'' As British bombs destroy the town, police and resistance members race to get hold of the files from the now-bombed police station—documents that will reveal just what it was the citizens of Kreiswald did during the war. Commendable concept, with credible if somewhat too carefully chosen characters, but vitiated by self-conscious writing and intrusively unsubtle intentions. Disappointing. Read full book review >