An ambitious if too carefully calibrated second novel (Tales of the Master Race, 1991) chronicling the life and often...

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SAFE IN AMERICA

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.

Pub Date: May 24, 1995

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995