A DISSENTER IN THE HOUSE OF GOD by Alvin Rosenfeld

A DISSENTER IN THE HOUSE OF GOD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A touching first novel of rebirth by child-psychiatrist Rosenfeld, which, while breaking no new new ground, is nonetheless affecting. Holocaust survivor Hyman Schwartz, a former mathematician in his native Warsaw whose wife and son have died in a concentration camp, arrives in New York as a refugee and is given a job as an accountant; Thinking about numbers had kept Hyman sane through the war and also help him through the next ten years; but, while his facility soon earns him a rapid promotion, it also prevents him from expiating his grief and anger. And square roots and multiplication tables are not sufficient armor against young Shimshon, a new employee and also a Holocaust survivor who insists that Hyman teach him all he knows about accounting Disturbed by Shimshon's request--he reminds him of what his son could have been--Hyman visits a synagogue on Kol Nidre night, the eve of Yom Kippur, and in the midst of the service accuses God of killing his family. His colleagues fear for his sanity; but Shimshon persists, and gradually Hyman warms to the young man's ambition and tenacity. He begins to talk about the past, and Shimshon, affected by his story and Hyman's loneliness, suggests that he come with him to Israel, where they can open an accounting finn and begin a new life. The suggestion has a cathartic effect on Hyman, who realizes that, though he will not go to Israel, he can help Shimshon in his new ventures and be a father to him--he can ""celebrate being alive."" His wife Rachel, after all, ""would never waste her one life to punish God."" Though at times sentimental, even simplistic, Rosenfeld's vividly evoked characters and detailed settings--he manages miraculously to make accountancy seem fascinating--make this familiar theme seem fresher than expected.

Pub Date: July 17th, 1990
Publisher: St. Martin's