A fictional take on Raphael’s chronicles of the lives of Holocaust survivors’ children.
It seems almost as if Paul Menzus was born on the occasion of his mother’s death. Returning to New York a few days after her funeral to meet with his siblings—beautiful, bitchy Dina, whose wealthy Quebecois husband got her to leave her job as a book editor, and screwed-up, bisexual Simon, who drives a cab in Queens—he says nothing of anyone or anything not intimately connected to his mother's demise, except to sing the praises of rural Michigan and to regret the loss of Valerie Hoffman, the girlfriend he abandoned to move there. His narrative, as airless as his parents’ closed-up apartment on West End Avenue, focuses so exclusively on his memories of his mother, a bleak, carping Holocaust survivor, that it seems a miracle when Valerie appears, still unmarried, and accepts his dinner invitation. Even at dinner, Paul obsesses: Why wouldn’t his mother speak of her experiences during the war? Why did a healthy woman die suddenly of a heart attack? And why did she leave him her reparations—the tainted “German money” Dina wants him to share, money that threatens to rip apart his remaining family?
A constricted tale of unresolved mourning only partly redeemed by the clever twist Raphael (Burning Down the House, 2001, etc.) saves for the end.