OPERATION SHYLOCK

A CONFESSION

Roth has worked out so frequently and acrobatically with fictional versions of himself that his entanglement here with a doppelganger insisting that he's Philip Roth—a double whose visionary "diasporism" gets the hapless narrator tied up in plots engineered by the Mossad, the PLO, and God knows who else- -is as logical as it is frenetically funny. Arriving in Jerusalem just after a hallucinatory withdrawal from Halcion, Roth is comically vulnerable to the double who's using his striking resemblance to the novelist to curry favor and raise money for his reverse-Zionist project: to return all Ashkenazic Jews from Israel, where fundamentalist Muslims threaten them with extinction, to the relatively benign cities of Europe. When Roth threatens legal action against the double, whom he christens Moishe Pipik, Pipik sends opulent, dyslexic Chicago oncology nurse Wanda Jane "Jinx" Possesski, a charter member of Pipik's Anti-Semites Anonymous, to intercede for him. Roth, falling in lust with this latest shiksa, finds himself slipping into Pipik's identity, spouting off diasporist speeches, and unwittingly accepting a million-dollar check for the diasporist cause from crippled philanthropist Louis B. Smilesburger. A zany ride back to Jerusalem from Ramallah, where he's incidentally delivered a loony, impassioned anti-Zionist tirade, ends with Roth rescued by a young lieutenant seeking a letter of recommendation to NYU, and the check lost or stolen. As he takes in the Israeli trial of John Demjanjuk, Roth ponders Pipik's insistence that "I AM THE YOU THAT IS NOT WORDS" and, under challenge from every side, questions his notorious Jewish self- hatred. Still ahead: antiquarian David Supposnik's request that Roth write an introduction to Leon Klinghoffer's recently discovered travel diaries, Roth's kidnapping, and his agreeing to undertake a secret mission in Athens for the Mossad. A deliberately anticlimactic epilogue substitutes for the final chapter that would have described the secret mission. No matter: rarely have fact and fiction, personal confession and wild imaginings, led such a deeply, unnervingly comic dance.

Pub Date: April 8, 1993

ISBN: 0-671-70376-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1993

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Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

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SUCH A FUN AGE

The relationship between a privileged white mom and her black babysitter is strained by race-related complications.

Blogger/role model/inspirational speaker Alix Chamberlain is none too happy about moving from Manhattan to Philadelphia for her husband Peter's job as a TV newscaster. With no friends or in-laws around to help out with her almost-3-year-old, Briar, and infant, Catherine, she’ll never get anywhere on the book she’s writing unless she hires a sitter. She strikes gold when she finds Emira Tucker. Twenty-five-year-old Emira’s family and friends expect her to get going on a career, but outside the fact that she’s about to get kicked off her parents’ health insurance, she’s happy with her part-time gigs—and Briar is her "favorite little human." Then one day a double-header of racist events topples the apple cart—Emira is stopped by a security guard who thinks she's kidnapped Briar, and when Peter's program shows a segment on the unusual ways teenagers ask their dates to the prom, he blurts out "Let's hope that last one asked her father first" about a black boy hoping to go with a white girl. Alix’s combination of awkwardness and obsession with regard to Emira spins out of control and then is complicated by the reappearance of someone from her past (coincidence alert), where lies yet another racist event. Reid’s debut sparkles with sharp observations and perfect details—food, décor, clothes, social media, etc.—and she’s a dialogue genius, effortlessly incorporating toddler-ese, witty boyfriend–speak, and African American Vernacular English. For about two-thirds of the book, her evenhandedness with her varied cast of characters is impressive, but there’s a point at which any possible empathy for Alix disappears. Not only is she shallow, entitled, unknowingly racist, and a bad mother, but she has not progressed one millimeter since high school, and even then she was worse than we thought. Maybe this was intentional, but it does make things—ha ha—very black and white.

Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-54190-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.

DEAR EDWARD

A 12-year-old boy is the sole survivor of a plane crash—a study in before and after.

Edward Adler is moving to California with his adored older brother, Jordan, and their parents: Mom is a scriptwriter for television, Dad is a mathematician who is home schooling his sons. They will get no further than Colorado, where the plane goes down. Napolitano’s (A Good Hard Look, 2011, etc.) novel twins the narrative of the flight from takeoff to impact with the story of Edward’s life over the next six years. Taken in by his mother’s sister and her husband, a childless couple in New Jersey, Edward’s misery is constant and almost impermeable. Unable to bear sleeping in the never-used nursery his aunt and uncle have hastily appointed to serve as his bedroom, he ends up bunking next door, where there's a kid his age, a girl named Shay. This friendship becomes the single strand connecting him to the world of the living. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, we meet all the doomed airplane passengers, explore their backstories, and learn about their hopes and plans, every single one of which is minutes from obliteration. For some readers, Napolitano’s premise will be too dark to bear, underlining our terrible vulnerability to random events and our inability to protect ourselves or our children from the worst-case scenario while also imagining in exhaustive detail the bleak experience of survival. The people around Edward have no idea how to deal with him; his aunt and uncle try their best to protect him from the horrors of his instant celebrity as Miracle Boy. As one might expect, there is a ray of light for Edward at the end of the tunnel, and for hardier readers this will make Napolitano’s novel a story of hope.

Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-5478-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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