A novel offers a dramatized account of a family’s extraordinary genealogical history.
Minnie Bublitz, born in Poznan, Poland, in the mid-19th century, quickly radiates precocious curiosity and disarming forthrightness. Naturally beautiful, she starts to magnetize the attention of men, and her parents begin to look, with scrupulous wariness, for a suitable match. An ambitious businessman, Fred Hartman, asks for permission to court her, but his more irresolute brother, Karl, a soldier in the army, brazenly pursues Minnie as well, much to her delight and Fred’s abject dismay. Karl manages to win Minnie’s affections, proposes to her, and a wedding date is set. Karl is late for the wedding, but Minnie and her guests assume that he’s left her stranded at the altar, and Fred gallantly offers to take her hand in marriage. Fred introduces an eager Minnie to the erotic aspects of matrimony, and she rhapsodically falls in both love and lust with the man. But, against her wishes, Fred moves to the United States with the intention of relocating the whole family there, including their three children. While Fred is away, Karl visits Minnie, and her once-simmering emotions for him quickly return. They make love, and she becomes pregnant with another child, a fact she eventually discloses to an anguished Fred. Minnie seems unstirred by her own infidelity: “I have loved Fred for the past nine years. I will always love him. I also love another man, a wonderful man who loves me. I must trust him to take care of my children if Fred won’t.” Minnie moves to the United States with her children to be with Fred, but her marriage never recovers from what he perceives as an unforgivable betrayal. In her third book, LaZebnik (The Atomic Sailor, 2014, etc.) draws upon considerable genealogical research to follow the arc of her family’s history until the Depression. The story is often mesmeric and charged with erotic electricity (“After sex, Minnie always felt at peace. She was happier, and so relaxed she felt like dancing naked in a palace ballroom”). While the writing is generally crisp, it remains frustratingly unclear what accounts for Minnie’s simmering brew of sexual appetite and moral libertinism. The story is a gripping one, though, and reads more like contemporary erotica than a family history.
A rare find for readers looking for a peculiar combination of historical rigor and libidinous energy.