"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Friday, February 05, 2021

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

TITLE: The Yiddish Policemen's Union
AUTHOR: Michael Chabon

In Chabon's alternate history, the Jewish country of Israel doesn't exist, and Jewish refugees escaping from the Holocaust are granted the safety and autonomy of a strip of Alaska. Now 60 years later, the Jewish land of Sitka is about to revert back to the United States. That's the background against which a Jewish policeman, living in a fleabag hotel, ends up investigating the murder of another tenant of the hotel.

Still reeling from his divorce a couple of years earlier the more recent death of his sister, and faced with an uncertain future after the reversion, Meyer Landsman is a mess, but he's a good detective, determined to find the killer, even if it means disobeying a direct order from his newly promoted ex-wife who is now his boss.

In prose full of metaphors and similies, Chabon takes Meyer and the reader into the part of Sitka where the Black Hats -- ultra Orthodox Jews -- live and oversee life in the district. The simple murder of a former chess prodigy/current drug addict is anything but simple. This is a fascinating look at what could have been, as well as a compelling story about a murder, grief, and a community determined to keep surviving all the obstacles put in their way.  

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