THE GRANDMOTHERS' CLUB by Alan Cheuse

THE GRANDMOTHERS' CLUB

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From Cheuse (Candace & Other Stories, 1980; The Bohemians, 1982), a rambling, self-consciously literary excursion into the joys and sorrows of Jewish motherhood. In this drawn-out monologue, the elderly, nearly blind Mrs. Bloch tells the tragic story of the rise and fall of her son Manny (and her daughter-in-law, Maby, and her granddaughter, Sarah) to fellow grandmother, Mrs. Pinsker, a kindred spirit (""Look, darling, sip a coffee, calm a little, and tell me what it was""). Manny is a silver-haired, silver-tongued rabbi in his late 40s who forsakes the religious life and wheels and deals his way into the presidency of General Banana, a massive company that does unscrupulous business in Central America. Since the vogue is to make folk heroes out of CEO's (and since he's fishing for an ambassadorship), Manny makes a speech at Rutgers, but is shouted down by the radical Jews for Justice (""RABBI GUATEMALA! OUT OF THE AMERICAS NOW!""), with whom his daughter Sarah is secretly in cahoots. By this time his fragile wife Maby has had a nervous breakdown, and when Sarah publicizes an under-the-table million-dollar payoff to a Central American dictator (and then joins the Hare Krishnas), Manny commits suicide, leaving his poor mother to tell the tale. Which she does, for nearly 320 circuitous pages, alternating tiresome mother-speak (""for a man, my Manny, my sonny boy, to know who he was, this was a blessing for the mother"") with equally tiresome Quality Lit indulgence (""you will become a grandmother. . .in another city or country. . .maybe even on another world, on the moon or undersea in the new discovered old city of Atlantis""). Talky to the yawning point.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1986
Publisher: Gibbs Smith/Peregrine Smith