A fresh and remarkable talent, evidenced in her novel Trust (1966) is here displayed in a group of short stories in which Miss Ozick softens the boundaries of irony while never scanting the ethical reference and reality that gave rise to it. In particular, most of the stories are set within the western Jewish experience; in general, however, they are tragicomedies about human unavailability, both to themselves and to each other, in an often monstrous universe. In "Yiddish in America" an aging, querulous and driven writer sublimates his own mortifications and anonymity in a ragged crusade for the continued use of the Yiddish language. Green with jealousy he attends a "Y" reading by a lionized Yiddish "mainstream America" writer, and searches the dark night for a translator to give him a voice in a present that finds him irrelevant. Two stories deal with satanic manifestations: a rabbi is trapped by a naiad; an urbane lawyer is set upon by an enormous and fleshly sea nymph. In the most moving story, "The Doctor's Wife," a kind, passively dutiful bachelor of fifty, among a family of parasitical combatants, accepts the knowledge that "accommodation becomes permanence," too late for anything but a sere autumnal haze of gentle lies. In the brief "The Butterfly and the Traffic Light," the answer to life's stops and gos may be simply to "live always at the point of beautiful change," a sardonic answer to unlovely transformation. Miss Ozick writes with the cutcrystal precision of Singer and the scouring tragic-ironic strengths of Malamud — exceptional stories all.

Pub Date: April 28, 1971

ISBN: 0815603517

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1971

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Stunningly original and altogether arresting.


An exquisite critique of patriarchal culture from the author of All My Puny Sorrows (2014).

The Molotschna Colony is a fundamentalist Mennonite community in South America. For a period of years, almost all the women and girls have awakened to find themselves bloodied and bruised, with no memories of what might have happened in the night. At first, they assumed that, in their weakness, they were attracting demons to their beds. Then they learn that, in fact, they have been drugged and raped repeatedly by men of the colony. It’s only when one woman, Salome, attacks the accused that outside authorities are called—for the men’s protection. While the rest of the men are away in the city, arranging for bail, a group of women gather to decide how they will live after this monstrous betrayal. The title means what it says: This novel is an account of two days of discussion, and it is riveting and revelatory. The cast of characters is small, confined to two families, but it includes teenage girls and grandmothers and an assortment of women in between. The youngest form an almost indistinguishable dyad, but the others emerge from the formlessness their culture tries to enforce through behavior, dress, and hairstyle as real and vividly compelling characters. Shocked by the abuse they have endured at the hands of the men to whom they are supposed to entrust not only their bodies, but also their souls, these women embark on a conversation that encompasses all the big questions of Christian theology and Western philosophy—a ladies-only Council of Nicea, Plato’s Symposium with instant coffee instead of wine. This surely is not the first time that these women are thinking for themselves, but it might be the first time they are questioning the male-dominated system that endangered them and their children, and it is clearly the first time they are working through the practical ramifications of what they know and what they truly believe. It’s true that the narrator is a man, but that’s of necessity. These women are illiterate and therefore incapable of recording their thoughts without his sympathetic assistance.

Stunningly original and altogether arresting.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-258-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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