Nine months Landman’s been flopping at the Hotel Zamenhof without any of his fellow residents managing to get themselves murdered. Now somebody has put a bullet in the brain of the occupant of 208, a yid who was calling himself Emanuel Lasker.
In the Yiddish Policemen’s Union Chabon has created an alternate history of post WWII Jews resettled to Alaska. Readers step into this alternate place 60 years later as the district of Sitka is preparing for reversion and the Jews who populate the book are preparing for the unknown next steps in their individual and communal lives. The primary story teller is Meyer Landsman, a sad sack police detective working one of the last homicides before reversion. As the case proceeds the story grows larger to encompass not just the building where the murder took place and where Landsman lives but the local community, then the larger political and religious framework of the District and finally the global geopolitics of America and the Middle East. It is a nice blend of speculative and detective fiction with plenty of politics and sociology thrown in. And the fictional community of Sitka Jews has a language that was entirely new to me so I loved learning this language through the story while unraveling the alternate history. It’s more weighty than many mysteries, but not as dense as some historical fiction which made it just about right for me.
Check the BPL Catalog for this title: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union
It was raining when Rahel came back to Ayemenem. Slanting silver ropes slamming into loose earth, plowing it up like gunfire.
I loved this book when I first read it years ago and I loved it as I re-read it again just now. It is the story of Estha & Rahel, twins completely unified as children and psychologically un-twinned by a childhood trauma. The story was moving and I felt such compassion for the characters: the twins caught in family struggles, their mother caught in cultural struggles, the rest of their family caught in political struggles and their friend caught in class struggles. Nothing is safe and no one is happy in Kerala where the Kochamma family lives. And yet Roy writes with such beauty about these difficulties. Her words are part poetry and part prose and the result is a lovely book about un-lovely aspects of life.
Check the BPL Catalog for this title: God of Small Things
“Yes, you can tell Carnegie I’ll meet him,” Frick said finally, wadding the letter and tossing it back at Bridge. “Tell him I’ll see him in Hell, where we both are going.”
Before Andrew Carnegie was known as the hero of public libraries, having funded the construction of over 1,500 libraries in the U.S., he was a ruthless steel baron, strikebreaker, and all-around unlikeable guy. Carnegie’s longtime business partner, Henry Clay Frick, an equally merciless businessman, has also since redeemed his reputation as the namesake and benefactor of (among other philanthropic endeavors) the Frick Art Reference Library in New York. Meet You in Hell tells the dramatic story of their business relationship, their personal lives, the steel industry in the late 19th century, and the building of America.
The book centers on the pivotal Battle of Homestead, a steel worker strike in 1892 that defined labor relations in the steel industry for the next 50 years and was the primary cause of the later vicious hatred between Carnegie and Frick. Les Standiford does an excellent job of making this history book read like suspenseful fiction – but without footnotes (my only complaint) you just have to believe he didn’t make this stuff up. Consistently referring to correspondence, business records, newspaper reports, oral histories, and memoirs, Standiford gives credible historical context to the drama. He fills in the details with lines like: “…they got the news from an exhausted but wild-eyed worker who had just rowed himself across the quarter-mile-wide river from Rankin to the Union Hall in Homestead…” which makes it sound like he was standing on the banks of the river watching the action. A nice balance of intrigue and historical fact.
History comes alive in Meet You in Hell! And it’s coming to get you!
Check the BPL Catalog for this title: Meet You in Hell: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and the Bitter Partnership that Transformed America