Stories about Jewish life—in all its painful absurdity—in the United States and in Israel.
Rosenfeld’s debut book of stories is funny, touching, awkward, and wry. In most of the stories, not all that much happens: instead, Rosenfeld deals with the quotidian and the absurd. In the title story, a young woman volunteers to keep an elderly Holocaust survivor company. Mostly, she watches him eat onions. “Lotzi ate it with bread, one slice for every three bites of onion, and washed it down with a cup of tepid Wissotzky made from old teabags reduced to the size of walnuts.” In “A Foggy Day,” a girl takes piano lessons. In “The Other Air,” a woman can’t stop sighing. Almost all the stories are told in the first person, and most of these narrators share a common voice. Then, too, there are certain images, or motifs, that recur throughout many of the stories: lemon trees, migraines, pianos, and books—more than books: some of her characters read compulsively, for hours, for days, almost unceasingly. Rosenfeld writes with a dry, sardonic deadpan. Her characters are lonely, homely, maladroit creatures. In “Vignette of the North,” the owner of a vegetable stand finds that an artist across the way has painted her stand. “Simona stared at a crumb that had settled on the painter’s beard and wished it away. As the object of artistic inspiration, she felt almost entitled to brush it off herself.” She invites him to her home to finish the painting “without all the distractions of the market.” She expects him to add her into the painting. He might as well stay for dinner. “I’m a very good cook,” she informs him. Inevitably, she’s disappointed. Readers won’t be.
This collection charms with quiet, wry humor.