A Replacement Life

Boris Fishman, Author
Boris Fishman. Harper, $25.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-228787-8
Reviewed on: 02/10/2014
Release date: 06/01/2014
Hardcover - 336 pages - 978-0-9575488-3-1
Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-06-228789-2
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-06-228788-5
Ebook - 430 pages - 978-0-9929182-1-7
Compact Disc - 978-1-4945-3546-9
Compact Disc - 978-1-4945-0546-2
MP3 CD - 978-1-4945-5546-7
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The debut novel from Fishman shines with a love for language and craft. Minsk-born 25-year-old Slava Gelman has made it to the bottom of top-tier journalism. He’s junior staff at Century magazine, and he’s just been given a shot at a byline. But the death of his Holocaust-survivor grandmother throws self-involved Slava’s life out of focus. His grandfather—a quick-to-brag but resourceful man who “gets things”—pressures Slava into forging a restitution claim letter for Slava’s deceased grandmother, then spreads the news around his South Brooklyn neighborhood of Slava’s availability to write such fraudulent letters. Soon, Slava finds himself sharing secrets with strangers whose war stories, full of “the oddly specific details he had come to learn make a narrative feel authentic,” leave him feeling much closer to his grandmother. Fishman’s description of the precious information that grandparents pass down is beautiful; their memories have been a burden for Slava, whose grandfather’s meandering stories about Soviet life leave him “feeling like a failure because he was letting gold slip away in a fast-moving river,” but he learns their real value in the course of this forging scheme. Writers like Slava, and like Fishman, have a responsibility to do justice to the beauty in the details, and Fishman achieves that handily here. (June)
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