The Yiddish Policemen's Union
  • The Yiddish Policemen's Union
  • The Yiddish Policemen's Union

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

3.7 129
by Michael Chabon
     
 

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For sixty years Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a "temporary" safe haven created in the wake of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. The Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan panhandle, a vibrant and complex frontier city that

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Overview

For sixty years Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a "temporary" safe haven created in the wake of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. The Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan panhandle, a vibrant and complex frontier city that moves to the music of Yiddish. But now the District is set to revert to Alaskan control, and their dream is coming to an end.

Homicide detective Meyer Landsman of the District Police has enough problems without worrying about the upcoming Reversion. His life is a shambles, his marriage a wreck, his career a disaster. And in the cheap hotel where Landsman has washed up, someone has just committed a murder—right under his nose. When he begins to investigate the killing of his neighbor, a former chess prodigy, word comes down from on high that the case is to be dropped immediately, and Landsman finds himself contending with all the powerful forces of faith, obsession, evil, and salvation that are his heritage.

At once a gripping whodunit, a love story, and an exploration of the mysteries of exile and redemption, The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a novel only Michael Chabon could have written.

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Editorial Reviews

Elizabeth McCracken
The moving, shopworn whiz-bang of historical visions of the future -- world's fairs, Esperanto, a belief that the Jews of the world will stop wandering and find a peaceful home somewhere on the planet -- Chabon loves, buries and mourns these visions as beautiful but too fragile to live. The future will always be a fata morgana. In this strange and breathtaking novel, the wise, unhappy man settles for closer comforts. As Landsman says, toward the end of the book, "My homeland is in my hat."
— The Washington Post
Michiko Kakutani
Mr. Chabon’s latest novel, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, builds upon the achievement of Kavalier & Clay, creating a completely fictional world that is as persuasively detailed as his re-creation of 1940s New York in that earlier book, even as it gives the reader a gripping murder mystery and one of the most appealing detective heroes to come along since Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Chabon's storytelling, in this alternate history of a world where Jews were settled in Alaska after World War II, is vivid enough, with inventive metaphors packed in like tapestry threads, but Peter Riegert's versatile voice makes the invented society even more tangible. Told through the eyes of Meyer Landsman, a police detective investigating a murder, the novel occurs in a "strange time to be a Jew," as several characters ruefully put it: the special Jewish district will soon be controlled by Alaska again. In a bonus interview on the last disc, Chabon relates his desire to write about a place where Yiddish was an official language. The book is shot through with Yiddish phrases and names, which melodically roll off Riegert's tongue. He gives Landsman and his tough but warmhearted partner Berko similar yet distinct gruff voices that contrast well with the effeminate-sounding sect leader and the Southern-accented Americans who come to start the land reversion process. Riegert's pacing increases the enjoyment of this expertly spun mystery. Simultaneous release with the HarperCollins hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 5). (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

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, LJ1/07.]
—Barbara Hoffert

Kirkus Reviews
Imagine a mutant strain of Dashiell Hammett crossed with Isaac Bashevis Singer, as one of the most imaginative contemporary novelists extends his fascination with classic pulp. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, 2000, etc.) returns with an alternate-history novel that succeeds as both a hardboiled detective story and a softhearted romance. In the aftermath of World War II, a Jewish homeland has been established in Alaska rather than Israel. Amid the mean streets of Sitka, the major city, Detective Meyer Landsman lives in a seedy flophouse, where alcohol has dulled his investigative instincts. His marriage to his beloved Bina couldn't survive an aborted pregnancy, after tests showed the possibility of birth defects. He also hasn't gotten over the death of his younger sister, a pilot whose plane crashed. He finds his sense of mission renewed when there's a murder in the hotel where he lives. The deceased was a heroin-addicted chess player, his slaying seemingly without motive. There's an urgency to Landsman's investigation, because the Promised Land established by the Alaskan Settlement Act is only a 50-year rental, with Jews expected to go elsewhere when the "Reversion" takes place two months hence. Thus, Landsman must solve the case before he loses his job and his home, a challenge complicated by the reappearance of his ex-wife, appointed chief of police during this transition before the Reversion. In her attempts to leave a clean slate, will she help her former husband or thwart him? Adding to the intrigue are a cult of extremists led by a gangster rabbi, a possibility that the death of Landsman's sister wasn't an accident and a conspiracy ledby the U.S. government. "These are strange times to be a Jew," say various characters, like a Greek chorus, though the novel suggests that all times are strange times to be a Jew. A page-turning noir, with a twist of Yiddish, that satisfies on many levels.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780007149834
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/29/2008
Series:
P.S. Series
Pages:
464
Sales rank:
135,000
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.04(d)

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