Cooper’s bifurcated follow-up to Some of the Parts (2002) musters its scant cohesiveness from a touchingly confused search for identity.
The first part forms a tidy family saga involving the Lipshitz clan, Russian Jews fleeing pogroms in Kishinev, disembarking in New York on December 17, 1907, and losing one of their sons while waiting in the immigration line. Five-year-old Reuven is blond and doesn’t look like a Jew; his mother Esther insists to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which promises to find him. The family drops anchor for months on the Lower East Side to wait for news, but eventually heads out to start a new life in Amarillo, Texas, where Esther’s brother Avi has moved. The Lipshitzes prosper, but Reuven is never found. A psychic tells Esther that her son will become famous and then endure a terrible tragedy; she convinces herself that Charles Lindbergh is really Reuven and writes dire warnings to the aviator and his wife for years before their son is kidnapped in 1932. The final section leaps to 2002. The Lipshitzes’ great-grandchild, a writer and rapper in New York who shares the author’s name and ambiguous sexuality, is reeling from the news that Mom and Dad have died in a head-on collision. T Cooper the character must return to Amarillo after many years away to help druggie brother Sammy plan the funeral and sort out family effects. T Cooper the author attempts to tie together the novel’s schizophrenic parts by having the modern protagonist painstakingly assemble a miniature model of Lindbergh’s plane, Spirit of St. Louis, and by having someone mistake T for Eminem, a misunderstanding that leads to a short stint at Bellevue. These gimmicks do not redeem a deeply fractured narrative.
A novel still in search of itself.