Fifteen finely crafted, interconnected stories, loosely based on the life of novelist Pilcer (a novel: I-Town, 1987, etc.), that cumulatively reflect the tensions haunting the children of Holocaust survivors,
Zosha Palovsky, named after her two grandmothers who died during the war, prefers to call herself Zoe. Though born in Europe in a camp for DPs, she was only a toddler when she arrived in New York with parents Genia and Heniek. Zoe’s predicament—how to reconcile her dreams with her parents’ experience—is central to each story. The first, “Do You Deserve to Live?,” is narrated by Zoe herself, who works for a movie magazine where she summons her “schlock muse” to write about stars, though she’d rather be writing about her family. She takes drugs, sleeps around, and says what she thinks, all shocking to her parents—especially Genia, who wishes she were a proper young lady. In school, she wants to be like the Latino girls who wear lots of makeup, and she refuses to go to a Yeshiva (“Paskudnyak”). In “First Story” and “Survivor’s Dance,” Genia revisits the past, recalling, respectively, how she was saved from the gas chamber because she was wearing a white head scarf and instead was sent to a labor camp; and how she met Heniek after the war. In “Our Father Our King,” Heniek recalls his escape from Auschwitz. As she grows older, Zoe, who once arrived stoned at a Holocaust Memorial Service (“Remember 6,000,000”), begins to appreciate her parents more, accepting the burden of their legacy. A visit to Auschwitz (“Imagine Auschwitz”) helps her understand why they wanted her to thrive when so many others had died. And in the final piece, “Blue Paradise,” Zoe—now married and herself a mother—vacationing with aging Genia and Heniek, rejoices that they can “grow old, as no other member of the family could, old enough to love a grandchild.”
Fresh and affecting takes on deep if familiar ground.