Missed Connections

Patricia T. O'Conner in The New Yourk Times:

BookIs there room in American fiction for another brilliant young émigré writer? There had better be, because here he is. Boris Fishman’s first novel, “A Replacement Life,” is bold, ambitious and wickedly smart.

The story, which unfolds during the summer and fall of 2006, begins as a jangling predawn phone call wakes 25-year-old Slava Gelman in his tiny Manhattan apartment. His adored grandmother, Sofia, who raised him, has just died in Brooklyn. Slava, a frustrated writer, has lost more than his grandmother. He’s lost what he can never know, the Holocaust memories that died with her, memories he had hoped to write about one day. The Gelmans, who emigrated from the Soviet Union in the 1980s, know that as a teenager in Belarus Sofia lost her parents when the Nazis annihilated the Jewish ghetto in Minsk. But that’s all they know. For 60 years, she kept silent about her escape from the ghetto and the horrors that followed. Even the man she married after the war, Yevgeny Gelman, now 80, knows only a few small details: “a factory, a raid, bodies in a basement, a dead child.”

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