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Unfortunately, admirable sentiments and some intriguing plots are not enough to redeem the heavy-handed writing of this first story collection by German-born Luban, who moved to Minnesota at the age of six. Far-ranging in setting and time, Luban's pieces are primarily about the Jewish experience, whether it be in 18th-century Britain or the Israel of the Old Testament. The first, and perhaps most accomplished, story in the collection, ""Tomorrow You'll Forget,"" describes an encounter in an eatery between a young Jewish man and an old woman, who, despite her shabbiness and age, evinces traces of a past beauty. Over a period of days the woman tells the man how she survived the Holocaust by becoming the camp commandant's mistress. She has punished herself for that act by deliberately choosing a life that would hurt her. In the title story, an old legend is explored, beginning with the ancient Samaritan King Ahab's marriage to Jezebel, and ending in the present when a Holocaust survivor and archeologist meets with the Magician, a descendant of the Samaritans and keeper of their secrets, including the whereabouts of their burial treasure. Two of the least persuasive tales are ""The Jew of Bath,"" in which a dying Jane Austen confesses to a love for a Jew she met, and on whom she modeled Mr. Darcy; and ""The Last of Rafaela,"" whose account of the reunion of two aging lovers is more the stuff of magazine fiction. Despite dialogue as stiff and wooden as the characters, who dutifully do their bit with little zest or vitality, Luban is obviously trying, but she has a long way to go before she can equal an Isaac Bashevis Singer.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Coffee House