MR. JACOBSON'S WAR by Richard Hammer


Email this review


When Jerry Greif (now the grown-up narrator) is nine years old in 1946, his combative 90-year-old grandfather Chaim Jacobson comes to live with the Greifs, having picked up and left the Hartford old people's home he's been living in for ten years. (In the novel's only directly involving scene, Jacobson returns to the home to tongue-lash his nemesis, the home's director, and to retrieve his belongings.) So Jerry and Grandpa get to really know each other: ""There is, I think, a special affinity that grows between the very young and the very old, between those at the beginning of life and those nearing its end. . . ."" And Grandpa tells Jerry the story of his life, which Jerry passes along, mostly in flatly summarized third-person narration (plus some cutesy stage-Jewish dialogue): Jacobson's desertion from the Tsarist army; his arrival in America (walking from New York to a relative in Lowell, Mass.); his shoe-factory laboring; his second marriage (wife #l died in Europe, sending over their two children); the successful start of his own factory; the embezzlement/bankrupting by his partner Dubinsky; third marriage (wife #2 dies in childbirth); and Jacobson's post-bankruptcy redirection of energy--from making money (he becomes a fruit peddler) to fighting small battles, first in local issues, later in that old people's home. Unfortunately, Hammer's detailing of these later crusades--about the home's food, etc.--soon become quite tedious; and the sentimentality and idealization culminate in a birthday party (Grandpa dresses in his old uniform and plays the flute) followed rather too neatly by Grandpa's death. Harmless and humdrum overall--with an approach much more suited to old-fashioned juvenile or YA fiction.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1981
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich