LIFE LINES by Joseph Viertel
Kirkus Star

LIFE LINES

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A sizable, efficient Jewish family-dynasty novel--designed with the authority of an author who can control his mainspring message (contemporary Soviet oppressions) while spinning out the complexities of domestic entanglement and suspenseful action. Dr. Yuri Karpeyko, Professor of Pediatrics at the Institute of Medicine in Minsk in 1973, finds himself suddenly the target of government-ordained, anti-Jewish persecution: in spite of his World War II heroism, the fame of his old Bolshevik father, and the friendship of Party bigwig Pyotr, it is plain that Yuri's days as a privileged, patriotic Soviet citizen are numbered. So Pyotr advises him to emigrate as soon as possible--with wife Cleo and scientist-daughter Yelena. And when Yuri then writes to a distant cousin in New York, department-store czar Martin Singer, the widely dispersed family history will emerge--as Yuri discovers a Jewish identity and Martin reinforces his own. Through 19th-century letters written by Martin's opportunist, adventuring grandfather Moishe, we learn about life in the Jewish community of Minsk--violent, heartbreaking. Moishe's sister Fegele, mother of Ivan, will die in the Revolution; brother Herschel will leave for Israel and become the father of Rachel, now 75 and a valued aide to Golda Melt. And while family ties in three countries tighten (Rachel is on a fund-raising tour in the States), Martin, tended through illness by volatile wife Jenny, muses on generational recurrences: sons repudiating fathers; a touch of too-callous ambition; sneakily unfaithful wives. Meanwhile, too, Yuri is arrested, detained, temporarily released, then goes into hiding--so the indomitable Rachel conceives a delicate, daring rescue plan which will bring Rachel, Jenny, her son Josh (with his girl), and Rachel's Israeli grandson to Russia. There's an intricate series of deceptions featuring disguises, shuffled passports and documents, coded messages and zig-zag transits. And, despite rescue-team in-fighting, the escape is partially successful. A fairly irresistible mix, then: dynasty doings for the Belva Plain audience; a thriller windup; a not-too-shrill message that's worthy and timely. And--despite some garish characterization (all the non-Soviet family members are super-machers)--this is professionally handled, steadily absorbing, high-class popular fiction.

Pub Date: March 26th, 1982
ISBN: 0743228944
Publisher: Simon & Schuster