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A tender and insightful first novel by Toronto-based short-story writer Teleky (Goodnight Sweetheart, not reviewed) offers a quietly compelling view of a young American Jew in Paris who’s driven to seek an identity that will sustain her when her longtime lover suddenly dies. Rosie Kamin, born and raised in Pittsburgh, had a repressive but otherwise uneventful childhood and adolescence. But when her mother, who had survived Auschwitz, kills herself, Rose, now in college, unthinkingly steps into the breach and runs the family household and tends to her demanding father. When she finally realizes that her life is going nowhere, she flees to Paris, vowing never to return. Several fleeting relationships with Algerians reinforce her outcast status, but her subsequent ten years with Serge, a Frenchman, offer a hitherto unknown degree of normalcy—no matter that he’s a diehard Communist, an alcoholic, and estranged from his own family. Rosie gladly gets what she needs from him, asking no questions and generally savoring her time together with him—until his sudden hospitalization makes her aware that he may have problems she’s unaware of. No sooner does she come to this realization than Serge’s liver fails and he dies. Neither a trip with her sister Deb to their mother’s home city of Budapest nor the advances of Serge’s best friend help: Rosie is alone again. She crudely stitches a yellow star on her raincoat, wearing it everywhere, and plans to take her own life at Serge’s grave; but when she arrives to do the deed, she discovers that she can—t. Slowly, painfully, she finds something tentative yet real within herself, an increasingly firm sense of character and purpose that brings her back from the edge. The full measure of Rosie’s suffering and estrangement is exquisitely conveyed, together with gemlike scenes of Paris life on the fringe; her story is a small but remarkable triumph.

Pub Date: April 7th, 1998
ISBN: 1-883642-96-5
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Steerforth
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1998