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Reviews: Books


Novel of the week

A Replacement Life

by Boris Fishman
(Harper, $26)

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Make room in your life for “another brilliant young émigré writer,” said Patricia T. O’Conner in The New York Times. Boris Fishman’s “wickedly smart” debut visits an immigrant culture readers have explored before, but it brims with descriptive brilliance and “crackles with irony.” Slava Gelman, a low-level magazine staffer, has been trying to distance himself from his Brooklyn immigrant roots when his grandfather badgers him into joining a scheme that promises justice of a sort: Slava will concoct a Holocaust restitution claim for the old man using details borrowed from his late spouse’s actual experience. Soon, requests for similar fictions are pouring in from other Soviet Jewish refugees, and Slava’s growing culpability “gives the novel its narrative drive,” said Emily Chenoweth in the Portland Oregonian. We fear the ruse’s unraveling as much as Slava does, but “what is most delightful about this book are Fishman’s affectionate portraits of the decrepit but curmudgeonly senior citizens of the Soviet swamp.”

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