A swiftly moving epistolary novel about a Jewish family.
Harry Rosenmerck, a Jewish cardiologist, has fled his New York home to breed pigs in Israel. Yes, pigs. His estranged family lies scattered in his wake. There’s his ex-wife, Monique, who’s facing down a serious illness; their brokenhearted daughter, Annabelle; and their playwright son, David, whom Harry has refused to speak to since David’s coming out. Sthers’s latest novel—her American debut—takes the form of letters that crawl back and forth via snail mail between Harry, Monique, Annabelle, and David, in various combinations, as well as the letters that Harry exchanges with Rabbi Moshe Cattan, who objects to his budding husbandry but soon becomes a fast friend. Sthers, a filmmaker both in her native France and in the U.S., has a keen eye and a light touch. The story zips among its many characters; it never drags, never tires. Then, too, Sthers has a fine sense for the way that the tragic, the comic, and the tender become mingled. Why won’t Harry speak to his son? Why did he and Monique separate? What lies behind Annabelle’s painful history with men? Sthers hints at answers but never overdoes things. Her slim, swiftly moving novel describes the complicated relationships between siblings, a married couple, a man and his rabbi and still has room for a light critique of Israel’s policies toward Palestine. This is a book you can read in an afternoon, but it’ll stick with you for much longer than that.
Comic, moving, and occasionally profound, Sthers’ novel is a delight.