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The German Money

The German Money

4.6 3
by Lev Raphael

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"Lev Raphael is a daring writer—one who will not be -restrained by genre, but who tells his story with all the tools at his command. The German Money combines all of Raphael’s estimable talents, delivering an emotional thriller about a totally believable contemporary family coming to terms with fifty years of silence."—Edmund


"Lev Raphael is a daring writer—one who will not be -restrained by genre, but who tells his story with all the tools at his command. The German Money combines all of Raphael’s estimable talents, delivering an emotional thriller about a totally believable contemporary family coming to terms with fifty years of silence."—Edmund White

Best known for Dancing on Tisha B’Av, the groundbreaking story collection exploring the lives of children of Holocaust survivors, Lev Raphael is also the author of five popular mysteries. Now he combines his talents in a story of emotional suspense.

Paul has spent his life running—from New York, the city of his birth; from his beautiful beshert; from contact with his own siblings; but mostly from his mother, a Holocaust survivor of inexplicable coldness. Upon her mysterious death, the children face shocking questions. What caused her to die? Why did she divide their inheritance so that Paul, the least favorite son, was singled out to receive the most, the dreaded "German money,"a bequest of a million dollars accrued from German reparations to survivors . . . a gift as cynical as it is generous.

"Lev Raphael’s new novel is a powerful, haunting and erotic tale. The stunning narrative builds to a shocking -denouement and kept me turning pages faster and faster to learn the truth."—Linda Fairstein

Lev Raphael is the author of thirteen books and known internationally as an insightful chronicler of the lives of the children of Holocaust survivors. Winner of the Lambda Literary Award, among many prizes, his short works have appeared in two dozen anthologies, including American Jewish Fiction: A Century of Stories. He is a book critic for National Public Radio and mysteries columnist for the Detroit Free Press.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
What a gift for a writer to be able to sustain unflagging, sweaty-palm suspense in a novel almost through character alone. This is what the prodigious Lev Raphael pulls off in The German Money, a mystery whose "shocking denouement," as one jacket blurb calls it, comes way late in the novel. Yet the moment is so organic to the whole thing that it feels as if a boiling volcano has finally let loose. — Richard Lipez
Publishers Weekly
Raphael applies his talents as a suspense writer (he is the author of five mystery novels in addition to the short story collection Dancing on Tisha B'Av) to this unconventional Holocaust novel, a family drama about the upheaval caused by a million-dollar legacy of German reparations money. The passive, introspective narrator, Paul Menkus, is a 42-year-old Michigan librarian who travels home to Manhattan after a heart attack claims his mother, Rose, a Holocaust survivor. He's the sole heir of her reparations-based fortune, which brings him into conflict with his younger siblings, underachieving, bisexual Simon and beautiful but difficult Dina, whose marriage is failing. Rose was in good health when she died, and Paul's inquiries into her death provide an element of suspense. The family interactions range from turgid to poignant, but overall Raphael successfully captures the family dynamic. He also adds narrative momentum with a romantic subplot (Paul reunites with old flame Valerie, a Holocaust memoirist who stayed close to the family after the couple's postcollege breakup). But Paul's mother remains an underdeveloped, shadowy figure, and the specifics of her Holocaust experiences are only sketchily outlined in the closing chapters. The climax, which hinges on a revelation delivered by a seemingly sweet elderly neighbor who played a pivotal role in Rose's demise, is rushed and farfetched. Raphael never quite delivers on the potential of his premise, but the sharpness of the family portrait and the appeal of the romantic subplot make this an engaging read. 15-city author tour. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Much has been written about the problems facing children of Holocaust survivors. In this quirky novel, Raphael (Little Miss Evil), whose own parents were survivors, explores a particularly dysfunctional family. Paul's mother has never discussed her experiences during the war. He and his two siblings are estranged, and they are all unsuccessful at the art of living happily or well. When their mother dies unexpectedly, the three come together in New York to argue, accuse, and search for the vestiges of a family life they never really experienced. Complicating any hope of reconciliation is their mother's will, which leaves the bulk of her estate, $1 million in untouched German reparation money, to Paul. Although the novel is quite readable, Paul is a self-absorbed, unappealing protagonist (he complains about having chosen librarianship as a career!), and the resolution of the mystery concerning his mother's life and death, plus the exorcism of his own personal demons in the last 20 pages, are precipitous and difficult to believe. Purchase for public libraries with extensive collections of Jewish fiction.-Andrea Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A fictional take on Raphael's chronicles of the lives of Holocaust survivors' children. It seems almost as if Paul Menzus was born on the occasion of his mother's death. Returning to New York a few days after her funeral to meet with his siblings-beautiful, bitchy Dina, whose wealthy Quebecois husband got her to leave her job as a book editor, and screwed-up, bisexual Simon, who drives a cab in Queens-he says nothing of anyone or anything not intimately connected to his mother's demise, except to sing the praises of rural Michigan and to regret the loss of Valerie Hoffman, the girlfriend he abandoned to move there. His narrative, as airless as his parents' closed-up apartment on West End Avenue, focuses so exclusively on his memories of his mother, a bleak, carping Holocaust survivor, that it seems a miracle when Valerie appears, still unmarried, and accepts his dinner invitation. Even at dinner, Paul obsesses: Why wouldn't his mother speak of her experiences during the war? Why did a healthy woman die suddenly of a heart attack? And why did she leave him her reparations-the tainted "German money" Dina wants him to share, money that threatens to rip apart his remaining family? A constricted tale of unresolved mourning only partly redeemed by the clever twist Raphael (Burning Down the House, 2001, etc.) saves for the end.

Product Details

Leapfrog Press
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Barnes & Noble
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Meet the Author

Lev Raphael is the author of fifteen books and known internationally as the chronicler of the lives of the children of Holocaust survivors. Winner of the Lambda Literary Award, among many prizes, his short works have appeared in two dozen anthologies. He performs all over the country at Jewish Book Fairs and has a weekly book show on NPR.

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The German Money 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lev Raphael is an excellent writer. German Money is the story of a young man who inherits the reparations money given by Germany to his mother. He can't decide whether to keep this money and his struggles with both his brother and sister are explained in this intriguing family drama. Raphael has a style of writing that propels the story while providing a certain intimacy with his characters that many other authors cannot achieve. Get this book if you want an opportunity to better understand holocaust victims and the impact this nightmare had on their families.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you've not read much about the Holocaust, the twist in Lev Raphael's latest book, The German Money, is pretty strange. Hard to believe. Fantastical even. But if you're a Holocaust survivor, or the child of one, or happen to know much about the Holocaust and its aftermath in terms of the physical and psychological toll it too on its victims, this tale easy to believe. Raphael, a child of survivors, writes an emotionally- charged, raw and honest story with a shocking ending, but one that clearly ties up the question of why and how the mother died, and neatly ties up other parts of the story, too. It's an ending worth waiting for. Not that you'll skip ahead, mind you, you'll be much too busy turning the pages to find out what comes next. No doubt those familiar with Raphael's other work will compare The German Money with Winter Eyes. Having not read Winter Eyes prior to reading The German Money, I picked up my wife's copy of that book and read it. Powerful writing there, too. And while they tackle somewhat the same subject, each book carves out it's own niche quite nicely. If you take the children of Holocaust survivors from Winter Eyes and mix in Raphael's mastery of mystery in the Nick Hoffman series, you get The German Money -- a gripping, well-drawn story that shows the emotional impact the Holocaust has on the children of the survivors, too. Raphael's gift for turns of phrase that sketch out dramatic characters and scenes is in full flower here, wrapped up in a package that I could barely put down while waiting for a delayed flight at Detroit's Metro Airport. I'm no fan of Northworst, as he and many Michigan residents know Northwest Airlines, but that five-hour delay gave me plenty of time to read. The German Money kept me so engaged and turning pages that I didn't notice the time go by.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a bookseller, I am careful about the books that I recommend to reading groups. It isn¿t enough that the book be a ¿good read¿ (easily enjoyed and as easily forgotten). People join book clubs for a variety of reasons, sometimes social ones, and often because they are starved for a decent conversation. But the conversation will only be as good as the book, so there isn¿t any point in choosing something easy. I agree with Kafka when he says ¿A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us¿, especially when it comes to book club reading. If you don¿t find your world rocked and your assumptions challenged, then what will there be to discuss? Nothing kills a discussion faster than a book that everyone likes, but no one can complain about. I highly recommend ¿The German Money¿ by Lev Raphael for reading groups. The author, an award-winning writer and a book reviewer for The Detroit Free Press, is perhaps best known for his wickedly satirical mystery novels. But this book is something entirely different: The German Money-- in Paul's family it refers to money paid by the German government as reparations to his cold and enigmatic mother, a survivor of the Holocaust. When his mother suddenly dies, Paul is shocked and bewildered to find she has left him the entire amount of 'the German money'. Shocked, because there is over a million dollars. Bewildered, because it was left to him with no explanation, even though Paul hadn't spoken to his mother in years, unlike his brother Simon and sister Dina, who don¿t receive a dime. Feeling like a reluctant prodigal son, Paul endures the simmering hostility of his sister, and the quiet grief of his brother, while he tries to come to terms with this troubling and mysterious legacy. But the more he finds out, the more he starts to have doubts about his mother's death. Rose was a bitter woman but healthy one, with no reason to die of a sudden heart attack. So what really happened? And why don¿t his brother and sister want to know? This is an intense novel that insists its reader fall into Paul's world- a world filled with secrets and silences, where the past was too painful to accept and was ruthlessly expunged. The world, in fact, of many children of Holocaust survivors. His mother filled Paul¿s childhood with a disastrous string of furious, inexplicable outbursts, and equally furious, implacable rejections. He was a child astray in his mother¿s emotional minefield. It was inevitable that he would be maimed. The book is written entirely in Paul¿s point of view¿the author never breaks ranks from the first person, a stylistic feat in itself. But this is no gentle reminisce by a friendly narrator. The story is relentless and Paul¿s anguish and turmoil inescapable. Readers will know what it is to be an angry and embittered young Jewish man who has spent the better part of his life running from something that happened over fifty years ago, to a completely different person. Even a million dollars can¿t make it all better. There is enough here for hours of good discussion, and a few places to indulge in a truly heated argument. Do children always have to pay for the sins of their parents? Can something as ephemeral as money ever hope to compensate the victims of the Holocaust? And most importantly, is forgiveness possible?. The German Money wields a sharp axe at a vast frozen sea, indeed.