The Yiddish Policemens Union
by Michael Chabon
Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780007149827 It's post-World War II, and Alaska has become the homeland for the Jews (as Franklin D. Roosevelt actually proposed). There, the murder of a former chess prodigy sends Det. Meyer Landsman on a hunt that leads back to the formidable Rebbe Gold. Chabon's first full-length adult novel since The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay; with a ten-city tour. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780007149827 Already announced (see Prepub Alert, LJ 12/05), Chabon's tale of murder and mayhem in an Alaskan homeland for the Jews post-World War II gets a one-day laydown. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780007149827 Like Haruki Murakami in Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1991), Chabon plays with the conventions of the Chandlerian private-eye novel, but that's only one ingredient in an epic-scale alternate-history saga of Jewish life since World War II. The premise draws on an obscure historical fact: FDR once proposed that Alaska, not Israel, become the homeland for Jews after the war. In Chabon's telling, that's exactly what happened, except, inevitably, it hasn't gone as planned: the U.S. government now has enacted a policy that will evict all Jews without proper papers from Sitka, the center of Jewish Alaska. In the midst of this nightmare, browbeaten police detective Meyer Landsman investigates the murder of a heroin-addicted chess prodigy who happens to be the disgraced son of Sitka's most powerful rabbi. No one wants this case solved, from Landsman's boss (his ex-wife, Bina) to the FBI, but our Yiddish Marlowe keeps digging, uncovering apocalypse in the making. Chabon manipulates his bulging plot masterfully, but what makes the novel soar is its humor and humanity. Even without grasping all the Yiddish wordplay that seasons the delectable prose, readers will fall headlong into the alternate universe of Chabon's Sitka, where black humor is a kind of antifreeze necessary to support life. And when Meyer, in the end, must weigh the fates of the Jews, of the Arabs, of the whole unblessed and homeless planet against a promise made to a grieving mother, it's clear that this parallel world smells a lot like home. Chabon's Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay ran the book-award table in 2000, and this one just may be its equal. --Bill Ott Copyright 2007 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780007149827 What's washed-up cop Meyer Landsman to do when a heroin-addicted, chess-crazed denizen of the dump where he lives gets plugged in the head? He's going to find the killer, and to that end he calls in his partner (and cousin) Berko Shemets, a bear of a man who's also half-Tlingit because, you see, this is...Alaska? In this wildly inventive blackest of black comedies, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay) imagines that after World War II Roosevelt decreed the yet-to-be-50th state the homeland of the Jews. Years have passed, and the Jews have settled in very nicely, thank you, re-creating the aura of the Mitteleuropa they've lost-though the black-hatted, ultra-orthodox Bobovers turn out to be real thugs. The meddling of our two boys leads them straight to powerful and dangerous Bobover leader Rebbe Gold and eventually to a plot aimed at the reclamation of Israel. It also leads them into plenty of hot water with the top brass, including their new boss-Meyer's ex-wife, Bina. Raucous, acidulous, decidedly impolite, yet stylistically arresting, this book is bloody brilliant-and if it's way over the top, that's what makes Chabon such a great writer. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/07.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780007149827 They are the "frozen Chosen," two million people living, dying and kvetching in Sitka, Alaska, the temporary homeland established for displaced World War II Jews in Chabon's ambitious and entertaining new novel. It is-deep breath now-a murder-mystery speculative-history Jewish-identity noir chess thriller, so perhaps it's no surprise that, in the back half of the book, the moving parts become unwieldy; Chabon is juggling narrative chainsaws here. The novel begins-the same way that Philip Roth launched The Plot Against America-with a fascinating historical footnote: what if, as Franklin Roosevelt proposed on the eve of World War II, a temporary Jewish settlement had been established on the Alaska panhandle? Roosevelt's plan went nowhere, but Chabon runs the idea into the present, back-loading his tale with a haunting history. Israel failed to get a foothold in the Middle East, and since the Sitka solution was only temporary, Alaskan Jews are about to lose their cold homeland. The book's timeless refrain: "It's a strange time to be a Jew." Into this world arrives Chabon's Chandler-ready hero, Meyer Landsman, a drunken rogue cop who wakes in a flophouse to find that one of his neighbors has been murdered. With his half-Tlingit, half-Jewish partner and his sexy-tough boss, who happens also to be his ex-wife, Landsman investigates a fascinating underworld of Orthodox black-hat gangs and crime-lord rabbis. Chabon's "Alyeska" is an act of fearless imagination, more evidence of the soaring talent of his previous genre-blender, the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Eventually, however, Chabon's homage to noir feels heavy-handed, with too many scenes of snappy tough-guy banter and too much of the kind of elaborate thriller plotting that requires long explanations and offscreen conspiracies. Chabon can certainly write noir-or whatever else he wants; his recent Sherlock Holmes novel, The Final Solution, was lovely, even if the New York Times Book Review sniffed its surprise that the mystery novel would "appeal to the real writer." Should any other snobs mistake Chabon for anything less than a real writer, this book offers new evidence of his peerless storytelling and style. Characters have skin "as pale as a page of commentary" and rough voices "like an onion rolling in a bucket." It's a solid performance that would have been even better with a little more Yiddish and a little less police. (May) Jess Walter was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award for The Zero and the winner of the 2006 Edgar Award for best novel for Citizen Vince. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved