Hope: A Tragedy

Hope: A Tragedy

by Shalom Auslander


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The bestselling debut novel from Shalom Auslander, the darkly comic author of Foreskin’s Lament and Beware of God.
Hope: A Tragedy is a hilarious and haunting examination of the burdens and abuse of history, propelled with unstoppable rhythm and filled with existential musings and mordant wit. It is a comic and compelling story of the hopeless longing to be free of those pasts that haunt our every present.
The rural town of Stockton, New York, is famous for nothing: no one was born there, no one died there, nothing of any historical import at all has ever happened there, which is why Solomon Kugel, like other urbanites fleeing their pasts and histories, decided to move his wife and young son there.

To begin again. To start anew. But it isn’t quite working out that way for Kugel…

His ailing mother stubbornly holds on to life, and won’t stop reminiscing about the Nazi concentration camps she never actually suffered through. To complicate matters further, some lunatic is burning down farmhouses just like the one Kugel bought, and when, one night, he discovers history—a living, breathing, thought-to-be-dead specimen of history—hiding upstairs in his attic, bad quickly becomes worse.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594486463
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/31/2012
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 335,907
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Shalom Auslander was raised in Monsey, New York. Nominated for the Koret Award for writers under thirty-five, he has published articles in Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Tablet, The New Yorker, and has had stories aired on NPR's This American Life. Auslander is the author of the short story collection Beware of God and the memoir Foreskin's Lament. He is the creator of Showtime's "Happyish." He lives in New York City. To learn more about Shalom Auslander, please visit www.shalomauslander.com.

What People are Saying About This

John Gray

Can the darkest events of the twentieth century and of all human history be used to show the folly of hope? And can the result be so funny that you burst out laughing again and again? If you doubt this is possible, read Hope: A Tragedy. You won't regret it. (John Gray, author of Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals)

A. L. Kennedy

A wonderful, twisted, transgressive, heart-breaking, true and hugely funny book. It will make very many people very angry. It will also make very many people very happy (A.L. Kennedy, author of Day)

Howard Jacobson

Shalom Auslander writes like some contemporary comedic Jeremiah, thundering warnings of disaster and retribution. What makes him so terrifyingly funny is that he isn't joking. (Howard Jacobson, author of The Finkler Question and winner of the Man Booker Prize)

From the Publisher

Praise for Hope: A Tragedy

“Staggeringly nervy… Other fiction writers have gotten this fresh with Anne Frank. But they don’t get much funnier… [Auslander] is an absurdist with a deep sense of gravitas. He brings to mind Woody Allen, Joseph Heller and – oxymoron here – a libido-free version of Philip Roth… It’s a tall order for Mr. Auslander to raise an essentially comic novel to this level of moral contemplation. Yet Hope: A Tragedy succeeds shockingly well.”  – New York Times

“Shalom Auslander is my kind of Jew — an unapologetically paranoid, guilt-ridden, self-loathing Diaspora kvetch, enraged by a God he can’t live with or without. While others of his generation may mine the tradition for a fond retrieval of forgotten lore, Auslander throws stones at the fiddler on the roof. He’s a black comic who’s alloyed the manic existential shtick of Lenny Bruce with the gallows humor that’s been a staple of the repertoire since the Babylonian Exile…. He is patently not good for the Jews…. A virtuoso humorist, and a brave one: beware Shalom Auslander; he will make you laugh until your heart breaks.” – New York Times Book Review

“Absurdist, hilarious … Part Sholom Aleichem, part Woody Allen, part homage to Philip Roth's The Ghost Writer, it is a story of neurotic Jews, the problem of memory and the solace of suffering. "It's funny," begins the novel, and it is…. To hope, we must misremember. So we build structures of misremembering: We build fictions. Auslander's first novel, Hope: A Tragedy: A Novel is a beautiful one.” — Cleveland Plain Dealer

“An irreverent (and how!), dark (to say the least), hilarious novel about a man who finds a beloved historical figure hiding in his attic.” — O, the Oprah Magazine

“A caustic comic tour de force.” — NPR

“There is an admirable fearlessness to Shalom Auslander’s writing . . . [His] ruminations and his clever inversions of conventional wisdom can challenge readers to re-examine opinions they probably take for granted, particularly regarding how the history of the Holocaust is remembered and taught.” – San Francisco Chronicle

“Scabrously funny…. Willfully outrageous, a black humorist with an Old Testament moralist’s heart… Angry, funny, shocking even, writing that strips away the niceties” – Los Angeles Times

“Poisonously funny…. Like an unintentional bark of laughter at a funeral.” – Entertainment Weekly

“The real tragedy would be to miss out on [this] debut novel, brimming with dark humor.” Entertainment Weekly’s Must List

“Blends tragedy, comedy and satire in the mold of Samuel Beckett and Franz Kafka.” – Wall Street Journal

“Grimly comic… relentlessly entertaining.” – Boston Globe

“Very funny; there is something very Wile E. Coyote about the ridiculous oppression that pursues Kugel… Vivid and very hard to stop thinking about.” – Forward

“The darkest of dark comedies. It’s as uncomfortably hilarious as it is shockingly offensive… Equal parts Philip Roth and Franz Kafka.” – Columbus Dispatch

“Brilliant… [An] open space for Auslander’s wild talent for gorgeously timed staccato rhythms.” – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Hilariously bitter and gloriously insensitive.” – WSJ.com

“There are echoes of Kurt Vonnegut, Philip Roth and even Franz Kafka in this wildly original novel. And yet with Hope: A Tragedy, Auslander has created a story that’s uniquely his, with something in it to offend, enlighten and ultimately touch just about anyone.” — BookPage

“Cultural anthropologists trying to figure out if there really is a recognizably Jewish voice and sense of humor, and if so, how it mixes and matches its key elements of self-deprecation, mordant compliance, hypochondria, and a total lack of surprise when disaster occurs, should consider Auslander’s debut novel….As funny as it is, the novel is also a philosophical treatise, a response—ambivalent, irreverent, and almost certainly offensive to some—to the question of whether art and life are possible after the Holocaust, an examination of how to ‘never forget’ without, as Kugel’s infamous attic occupant puts it, ‘never shutting up about it.’” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reading Group Guide


Solomon Kugel left New York City to raise his family in a safer environment. Unfortunately, the rural enclave of Stockton, New York, is not the peaceful haven that he anticipated. An arsonist is running amok, Kugel can’t cover the mortgage—and a putrid smell is emanating from the farmhouse’s attic.

Instead of finding mouse droppings or a hibernating raccoon, Kugel discovers a withered woman who claims to be Anne Frank.

Kugel is not a practicing Jew. He doesn’t know where to buy matzoh. He’s never even read The Diary of Anne Frank. Yet, Kugel hews to his cultural stereotype in one crucial sense: he is crippled by guilt. Already torn between the needs of his wife, child, and aged mother, Kugel begins catering to his demanding attic dweller as well. Anne Frank adheres to the schedule she learned as a girl—sleeping through the day while writing the follow–up to her thirty–two–million–copy bestselling memoir at night. Downstairs, Kugel lies sleepless, listening to the steady “tap, tap, tap“ of Anne’s fingers on the keys and wondering if this is the night his house will be torched.

Filled with gut–wrenching pathos and brazenly irreverent hilarity, Hope: A Tragedy is wholly un–Kosher as it definitively confirms Shalom Auslander’s arrival as a major literary force.



Shalom Auslander was “raised like veal“ in Monsey, New York. Nominated for the Koret Jewish Book Award for writers under thirty–five, he has published articles in GQ, Tablet, The New York Times Magazine, andThe New Yorker, and has had stories aired on NPR’s This American Life. The author of the short story collection Beware of God and the memoir Foreskin’s Lament, he lives in New York.


  • In the event of another Holocaust, would you hide Kugel in your attic? In what ways is he already living in an attic?
  • Do you think Anne Frank is really living in Kugel’s attic? If not, what does her presence symbolize?
  • Kugel’s mother thinks that Jonah—at three years old—should know about the Holocaust. Kugel, however, wants to raise his son in ignorance. At what age—if at all—should children be educated about difficult historical events? Is our devotion to “remembering“ atrocities like the Holocaust ultimately harmful or necessary?
  • Kugel’s therapist, Professor Jove, is his “trusted guide and adviser“ (p. 3). Yet, he is unavailable whenever Kugel tries to reach him. What is his role in the novel?
  • Is hope as noxious a force as Professor Jove believes it to be?
  • The proliferation of food allergies and gluten intolerance is one darkly hilarious instance of irony in the novel. What are some others?
  • Are the barn burnings a red herring, or is Will Messerschmidt’s story an important part of Kugel’s story? Do you agree with Anne Frank when she says that “we’d have had fewer problems in this world if more people had the courage to be self–hating“?
  • Are you offended by Auslander’s dark humor? Would the novel have been more or less potent without it?
  • Interviews

    Hope: A Tragedy was the first title I suggested to my editor. I really thought it was right.

    “No,” he said.

    My parents didn’t love me, so I have low self-esteem, and I agreed to keep working. These are some of the alternate titles I presented, and the reasoning for or against them:

    • The Diary of Anne Frankenstein:
      My working title; I never really intended to use it—too Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters—but it had grown on me, and I mentioned it to my editor as I was finishing the manuscript. This caused him to proclaim a couple of “title rules” for this novel:
      1. 1) Nothing funny.
      2. 2) No mentioning Anne Frank.
      3. Apparently, people don’t buy “funny” novels, and they don’t buy books about Anne Frank.
      4. Which is, ironically enough, pretty fucking funny.
    • It’s a Wonderful Ka-Pow:
      Too funny.
    • Did I Ever Tell You How Unlucky You Are?
      Too funny.
    • To Those About to Be Consumed by Flames:
      Too Sedaris.
    • Nowhere Ho:
      I liked this title quite a bit, a play on the old expression “Westward Ho.” Kugel, the main character, wishes for nothing more than to be nowhere—a place with no past, no history, no wars, no genocides. This is his dream, his goal of sorts, for both himself and his family. My editor liked it as well, and began mentioning it to people, testing it out. It turns out young people don’t know that expression anymore. The poor dears were very confused. My editor was disappointed. I wanted to run to Nowhere even more than I had before.

      There was a brief concern that they won’t know who Anne Frank is, either, which, we decided, would be pretty fucking funny.

    • The Sufferers:
      I do my best to stay out of bookstores because they make me want to kill myself, but apparently The X is a bit of a trend now. The Informers, The Intuitionist, The Imperfectionists. Et cetera. There was some concern it would be seen as that. I had a difficult time believing that things had gotten so bad that the word “The” was a trend.

      “Like the Bible?” I asked.

      “Keep working,” I was told.

      The Lacerations and The Crematorians died for the same reason. Probably for the best, those.

    • What Have You Done, Mother, What Have You Done?

      My editor phoned one day, and told me that he liked novel titles that were questions.

      “Questions?” I asked.


      “Why?” I asked.

      “I like titles that are questions,” he said.

      “That’s why?”


      “Because you just like them?”


      “Why do you like titles that are questions?”

      “Hey,” he replied, “what’s with all the goddamned questions?”

      “Sorry,” I said.

      My parents didn’t love me, so I have low self-esteem, and I agreed to keep working.

    • The Sea:

      That’s the title of a John Banville novel. It makes me laugh for some reason, and so I suggest it as a title for every book I write. This was the response:


    • The Driftwood Remains:

      There’s an old Yiddish expression: The storm passes but the driftwood remains. It seemed appropriate, and it sounded like a “literary novel,” plus Yiddish is a dying language, so I’d get points for that.

      “What’s the title?” people asked.

      “The Driftwood Remains,” I said.

      “Oh,” they replied, nodding their heads as if to say, Yes—yes, that sounds like a book. My editor, showing it to people he knew, was getting the same unenthusiastic reception.

      We kept looking. As the time ticked by, the suggestions received more scrutiny and less consideration. The Attic was my shrink’s recommendation. He pushed it pretty hard, too. “Because the attic is his superego, which he is trying to emerge from beneath.” That’s what’s called knowing too much about your character. Just analyze me, Doc, stay away from my characters. Laceration Nation: Too George Saunders. Life’s a Gas: Too Tadeusz Borowski. Sufferer’s Delight: Too Sugarhill Gang.

      The Excruciating Agony of Joy: Sounded to my wife a bit too much like The Unbearable Lightness of Being. She was pushing for Hope: A Tragedy from the beginning, though, so maybe she was just bullshitting me.

      At last, time ran out and the winter catalog had to ship, which is the way most literary decisions are finally made.

      “How about,” the editor said to me, “Hope: A Tragedy: A Novel? But when the copy editor complains, I’m giving her your landline.”

      There’s a lesson in there somewhere, but I’ll be damned if I know what it is.

    — From the author

    Customer Reviews

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    Hope: A Tragedy: A Novel 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I feel the negative reviews found here are from people who simply didn't understand the book. Read for yourself instead of listening to others. This is my new favorite, not because of the plot or the story, but because of the underlying themes presented. Just trust me when I say to give it a chance, it is worth it.
    LoReed More than 1 year ago
    Irreverent, piercing, funny, philosophical, searching...a companion even. Maybe the best reader gets the love/hate idiom of NY Jewish identity. But I'd like to think that the audience is wide and broad. It's so well crafted and surprising and real. Should be required reading for creative writing courses.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    The Kirkus Review review is right on the money. Reminds me of an intelligent Woody Allen movie...
    cvjacobs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Shalom Auslander¿s book, Hope: A Tragedy, depicts a protagonist in crisis. Solomon Kugel buys a farmhouse in Stockton, NY. His wife, mother and young son move in, but the trauma does not end with the things that need to be fixed. He brings some of the trouble with him. His mother complains of problems as a result of the holocaust, but she was never in the camps. The behavior of his mother revolts him. Other troubles are peculiar to the house and the area into which he has moved. Kugel has a fear of fire. Someone is burning down homes in the Stockton area. Then he discovers a smelly old woman in the attic who claims to be Anne Frank. Kugel has to have the vents cleaned because his mother and Anne Frank urinate and defecate into them. All of these issues make it difficult for Kugel to concentrate on his work, and he loses his job.The book is supposed be funny, but Auslander just doesn¿t pull it off. Perhaps it¿s the topic. The holocaust and characters from it don¿t lend themselves to being perceived as humorous, particularly the type of humor that denigrates his mother and Anne Frank and strips them of dignity. I¿m not sure why they prefer to use the vents rather than the bathrooms. The characters, particularly Kugel, his mother and Anne Frank are not well drawn. I don¿t believe their behavior and their dialog, so it is difficult to see the humor in them. Right at the beginning of the book, Kugel mentions that his therapist has told him that hope is his greatest failing. Perhaps Kugel should find a new therapist and start over.
    laytonwoman3rd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Pity Solomon Kugel. He is a man plagued by bodily functions and malfunctions; obsessed with settling on the perfect last words for the day he dies; burdened with family responsibilities and unable to arrive at the simplest of sensible decisions. Kugel has moved his family to an old farmhouse in a rural village, to avoid the hazards of city living and to make a fresh start after a terrible year in which his always sickly son, Jonah, nearly died of an ¿FUO¿---fever of unknown origin.Solomon feels guilty about his son¿s illness, but this is not a new feeling. His first words to the infant Jonah were ¿I¿m sorry¿---an apology for bringing this tiny vulnerable person into the world at all. At the age of three, having survived the mysterious ¿bug¿, Jonah seems to grasp life on a more sophisticated level than either of his parents. ¿We almost lost you there, little buddy, Kugel whispered to Jonah on the morning of their discharge¿Lost me where? Jonah had asked¿It means you almost died¿ his mother explained. ¿I¿d rather be dead than lost", Jonah said¿"Because if I¿m dead I won¿t know it.¿Solomon¿s mother is part of his household, and she carries a mighty weight of suffering. Living in a town with no historical baggage whatsoever, she defines herself by a history in which she did not participate. She blames all personal troubles on ¿the war¿, by which she means the Holocaust, despite the fact that she was born in 1945 in Brooklyn, a third generation American with no known relatives who were victims of the extermination. Mother periodically brings out a lampshade and claims it is Solomon¿s grandfather, or uncle, or cousin. When the Made in Taiwan stamp on the shade is pointed out to her, her response is ¿Well, they¿re not going to write `Made in Buchenwald¿ on there, are they?¿ Mother is a terrible burden, but her doctors have assured Solomon that she has very little time to live, so he cannot just tell her to leave, as his wife demands. He humors Mother by strewing the back yard with fruits and vegetables, which she ¿harvests¿ on a daily basis, under the illusion that they have grown there from seeds she planted.The house itself is beset by mysterious tapping sounds and horrendous smells. Not haunted, exactly, but something¿no, as it turns out, someone is definitely living in the attic. That someone is a very old woman who claims that she is Anne Frank and that she has been living in this very same attic for 50 years--that she ¿comes with the house¿ and cannot leave until she finishes the novel she is writing. She¿s responsible for both the noise and the stench that are making the house virtually uninhabitable, driving out the paying tenant who is essential to the financial stability of the Kugel household. Solomon can¿t evict her, either. What if she really is Anne Frank, taking refuge again in an attic¿and a Jew threw her out?One can see that Hope: A Tragedy is meant to be darkly funny, like M.A.S.H. or Catch-22. But not one of the characters ever winks at the reader as if to say ¿You see how ridiculous??¿, so humor fails to gain the upper hand. We are left with a cast of one-dimensional unsympathetic characters who bludgeon us with the point that life is downright nasty, and hope will just make you crazy.
    freelancer_frank on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    This is a book about positive hope. It touts the tedious, mundane and simplistic idea that an impossible hope will only make things worse. By page 63, I stopped hoping that it would get any better.
    Sean191 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    One of the book blurbs says about this book, "It will make very many people very angry. It will also make very many people very happy."I'm among the former. I disliked this book quite a lot. The characters weren't believable, but since the story was supposed to be over-the-top, that would be excusable, if the characters made sense within those confines. Instead, the characters just aren't believable even in an unbelievable story and the plot holes just distracted me constantly. Maybe if the book ended with a twist somehow reminiscent of Fight Club, I could have forgiven all and even thought it was a decent work - but no....it's just an out there tale with characters that don't make sense, that I don't care about and peppered with profanity where there doesn't need to be any and again, where it doesn't seem to make sense. Yet, I give it 2.5 stars because there were moments, few and far between, that I enjoyed the book.
    abealy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Darkly comic and wallowing in pessimism, Hope: A Tragedy, a first novel from Shalom Auslander, is heavy with guilt and light as air. It¿s a brilliant read.Solomon Kugel has brought his wife and young son to Stockton, a small uninspired town in upstate New York, to begin life afresh, make a new start and shake off whatever bad breaks dumped them here. Unfortunately he must bring along his old dying mother, a non-holocaust survivor who nevertheless has taken on all the guilt and anxiety of one who feels she should have been there ¿ and in fact would have made a good victim. Dementia is beginning to strip away her anchor to the real world and paranoia and delusion fill her waking hours. More troubling is the discovery of an intruder that has taken up residence in the attic ¿ a particularly fowl, high-maintenance intruder that may in fact be one of the most iconic examples of the tragedy of Jewish persecution during World War II.Early in this narrative Solomon, through the influence of his confessor, Professor Jove, realizes that ¿hope¿ is the problem, ¿hope is irrational¿when someone rises up and promises that things are going to be better, run. Hide. Pessimists don¿t build gas chambers.¿We watch as Solly quickly spirals into his own madness of guilt and compensation. He is trying to manage history and suffering but is leaving his wife and son to fend for themselves. His blinders are particularly annoying when he cannot see or at least respond to the needs of his immediate family.Besides his mother and his famous holocaust-survivor attic dweller, Solomon must deal with the threat of an arsonist who is loose in the neighborhood torching farmhouses similar to his own.None of this sounds particularly comic, but Shalom Auslander¿s first novel is full of angst, wit and moral musings that make for a wonderfully fun (and sad) book.
    Allizabeth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Description: Solomon Kugel, a death obsessed neurotic, yearns for a fresh start for his family; so he moves them from the hustle and bustle of NYC to a farmhouse in the little known, (and little known for), Stockton, NY. Unfortunately, escaping his past - and his neuroses - proves an impossibility due to continuing family drama, his mother's hoarding and dementia, an arsonist who's goal is to burn down every farmhouse in the neighborhood, and a mysterious and annoying tapping coming from the attic. Thinking the tapping could be some sort of rodent infestation, Solomon ascends, with a flashlight in hand, into the box-crammed attic and finds none other than Anne Frank - old, alive, crude, and cranky - who is trying to write a sequel to her original bestseller The Diary Of Anne Frank... No Spoilers!Review: Honestly, I didn't' know what to expect from Shalom Auslander's Hope: A Tragedy, especially after examining the strange cover art and reading the blurb on the back cover. I hadn't read other books by this author, but had heard mixed reviews - funny, dark, twisted, pessimistic, paradoxical, etc... Well, after reading all 292 pages, I wholeheartedly agree! It is one of the few books that I have read that left me laughing-out-loud one minute, depressed about life the next, and scratching my head in confusion and dismay a couple pages later. It's a very "far-out" and cynical read, and I am sure that this book isn't for everyone; some readers may even find it crude, over-the-top, nonsensical, unstructured, and repetitive, but that is how it is written. The format actually does a lot for the book overall - particularly when the reader considers the personalities/neuroses of the characters, Solomon especially. The characters are strangely comical, but I couldn't relate to a few of them which made a couple sections boring; those involving Professor Jove weren't my favorite. I did however enjoy Solomon's relationship with his mother and her constant reminiscing about her faux stay in a concentration camp. The plot is not evident at first, but once I got into it I found it easier to grasp. One of the main reasons I was tripped up a few times was that there were no quotation marks in the dialogue, so I had trouble following who was speaking in the conversations. Overall, I did enjoy Hope: A Tragedy and recommend it to those interested in reading something deviating from the norm that will make some laugh, some scowl, and leave others dumbfounded.Rating: On the Run (4/5)*** I received this book from the author (Penguin Group USA) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
    nbmars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Although I loved the first book I read by Auslander, Foreskin¿s Lament, I have to say I couldn¿t stand this one! True, there were some very funny moments, but overall, it was a story of a guy presumably made insane by his insane mother, with a tragic ending.Solomon Kugel, approaching 40, is obsessed with death and dying before he is ready. His mother, fixated on the Holocaust, is constantly reminding him he could die anytime, and in a horrible way. Kugel¿s mental state deteriorates further when he discovers a symbol of dying young who is hiding out in his attic, claiming never to have died after all. He shares this information with his mother, thinking it will cheer her up, but it only makes her crazier. Fairly soon, the madness of Kugel and his mother spiral out of the control, and they manage to precipitate the holocaust they have striven so long to avoid.Evaluation: In spite of some wickedly clever parts, I really disliked this book. I couldn¿t stand the characters, and the story was just way too dark for me. I think he¿s a good writer; the rating reflects my dissatisfaction with the plot.
    rach2340 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Solomon Kugel and his family move to Stockton, Ny. for a fresh start on life. His son is very sick. His wife misses the city and Kugle's Mother is convinced she is a holocaust survivor. Kugel is "an optimist", as described by his doctor, but really is a paranoid pessimist. Everything goes down hill once he discovers a REAL holocaust survivor in his attic. And it just so happens to be the most famous one in history: Anne Frank. I loved the plot idea for this novel. WW2 is one of my favorite periods to read about so that just made it even better. The story moved at an even pace. There were no really slow parts to the novel. That was a plus. The characters held me interest throughout the novel. Kugel's Mother was one of the best characters in my opinion. I felt sorry for her but was mad at her throughout the novel. Honestly, I think she was just insane. The only thing I had a problem with was the end of the novel. It's not that i think it wasn't well written, it was wonderfully written, it's just that Auslander went and did some strange things to the main character. I would say more but I don't want to give the ending the of the novel away. The story is kind of depressing so if you don't like a sad read, then this is not the book for you. If you like weird books and don't mind the depressing story line, then enjoy a great novel!
    pbadeer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    While I thought this was an excellent book, I find it difficult to describe. The writing is "quirky", but with a humor that is more cringe-worthy than laugh out loud funny. There are one-liners which sneak up on you, and you find them humorous in spite of yourself - because you know you shouldn't be laughing. The Holocaust isn't funny, arson isn't funny, wishing your mother dead isn't funny; but keeping a book with a list of all of the "last words" you hope you will say when you die, is kind of funny.But I don't want to give the impression that this is a funny book. Like I said, it's quirky. Solomon Kugel has moved into an old farmhouse, right at the time when an arsonist is torching similar homes in the area. Kugel has done everything he can think of to get rid of the "smell" that eminates through his vents, when one day he discovers the source. I won't say what it is (I'm not sure if it would necessarily be considered a spoiler, but my jacket copy does not specify - of course, it seems to have become one of the worst kept secrets in the promotions of this book, even my wife heard it on the radio), but it pretty much dictates the action for the rest of the book. There are some serious issues covered in this narrative, but it never gets bogged down. The only reason I couldn't give it a five star rating - which I had seriously been considering while reading it - was that some of it became a little repetitive. So much time is spent circling around some of the serious issues, the author seems to have been paying less attention to progressing the plot. But overall, still a recommended read.
    jasonlf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Outrageously funny, so wildly original you forgive a certain amount of repetitiveness, a rude offspring of Philip Roth and Franz Kafka. The sort of book where you constantly want to put it down and call everyone you know to read them the passages you just read.Solomon Kugel is a neurotic obsessed with death who recently moved with his family to a farmhouse in upstate New York. One night he hears noise coming from the attic, goes up to investigate, and discovers Anne Frank living up there. But not just any Anne Frank, but a cranky, old, foul-mouthed one who is trying to write a book but laboring under the weight of her previous book which, as she constantly reminds us, sold 32 million copies.Meanwhile, downstairs Kugel's Mother is obsessed with the Holocaust, constantly invents stories about being a survivor, along with bizarre claims (like: see this lamp it's your uncle, but the sticker on it says "Made in Taiwan." Well they wouldn't put Made in Auschwitz on it would they. This then gets repeated with a bar of ivory soap).The book explores optimism vs. pessimism, the former being personified in Kugel's brother-in-law (Pinckus, who appears to be a stand in for Stephen Pinker) and the later in Kugel and his hilarious psychiatrist Professor Jove.I don't want to spoil any more, you should just read it.
    Osbaldistone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    [This is a review of the uncorrected proof provided by the publisher]The main character in Shalom Auslander¿s excellent ¿Hope: A Tragedy¿, Solomon Kugel, grew up with, and continues to live with the Holocaust hanging over his head like a cartoon storm cloud. From a family unaffected by the Holocaust, Kugel¿s Mother apparently deals with her sense of guilt by fabricating an entire family history of Holocaust victims and survivors (¿See this lampshade? This is your grandfather.¿). And she is determined to ensure that Kugel feels her pain.¿Hope: A Tragedy¿ is the story of the Kugel family (Solomon, his wife Bree, their son Jonah) trying to escape this self-destructive survivor guilt and inject some new life into their marriage by moving into an old farmhouse near a small New York town. Though having Kugel¿s mother move in with them (supposedly her last days) may have been enough to destroy the Kugel¿s hopes of a rebirth, Kugel¿s discovery of who is living in the attic promises to destroy them all.Auslander has expertly used dark humor to ease the pain of peering directly into Kugel¿s real and metaphorical attic ¿ his indecision in dealing with the unexpected occupant and his general angst. There are a few laughs, and the subject is treated with a light heart and a bit of tongue-in-cheek, but the real emotional issues addressed in ¿Hope¿ gives this work a weight that makes it well worth a first, and probably a second, read.Os.
    SusieBookworm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    This is a weird, wacky book, but I totally loved it. I loved Auslander's writing, which is slightly cynical but often funny. I loved the characterizations, even though I'm pretty sure half the characters could be diagnosed with various forms of insanity. I loved the whole concept of the novel, which is basically examining the hold past events, even ones we never could have experienced, can have on our lives. I'm not Jewish and my German-American ancestry goes back way too far to be affected by the legacy of the Holocaust, but I could completely see the position from which Auslander is writing.I must admit, I skipped to the ending and skimmed over the last few pages before I finished the book. Surprisingly, I think knowing the outcome actually helped me discover the irony of the build-up to the climax, an irony which is at the root of the novel's title. For once, being an impatient reader was a positive, because I doubt that I would have caught this meaning without knowing the conclusion beforehand. Anyway, Hope: A Tragedy provided a great read for the close of this year, one which I believe is going to stick in my mind for a long time.
    SqueakyChu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Think: Chuck Pallahniuk's rhythms meets the Holocaust. If that doesn¿t appeal to you, don¿t read this book. If you still remain curious, here¿s more about Shalom Auslander¿s first novel. True to form for this author's writing, some readers may find his subject matter offensive, so proceed with caution¿Solomon Kugel moves with his wife Bree, his young son Jonah, and his mother to a farm house in Stockton, New York. Bree is extremely unhappy about ¿Mother¿ living in their house, but Kugel maintains that she will soon die. In the meantime, Mother amuses herself by visiting her garden and ¿picking¿ vegetables which, in reality, had been purchased in a grocery store by Kugel. Mother, born and bred in New York state, thinks she has been a Holocaust survivor despite Kugel¿s many attempts to convince her otherwise.Kugel, a writer, has great difficulty sleeping. Much has to do with a constant tapping that he hears through the air vent of his house. The funniest lines of the book have to do with this.Upstairs.In the attic.A ticking?A tapping.As if some mouse were gently crapping, crapping on his attic floor.What Kugel actually finds in the attic is a total surprise and how he deals with this situation is even more intriguing. Though this novel might be considered by some as funny, its deeper pervasive theme of death made it only "borderline funny" to me. However, the story slowly evolved into quite the family saga. Though Auslander strikes hard at areas we wish he'd not approach, his is a unique voice and one whose thoughts make for quite an interesting read. This particular story could have been a little lighter on bodily functions for my own reading taste, but, other than that, I found this book very likable in its own weird little way
    chuewyc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Got to say i really enjoyed this book. I didn't understand the ending at all., but only took me a little over a week to read it and it was funny and charming.
    glendalea on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    I found "Hope: A Tragedy" to be one of the most bizarre stories I have read in a while (this coming from an avid Palahniuk reader). When the author sprung the giant twist around page 25, I almost stopped reading and was going to chalk this up to one terrible story set-up. However, once I picked it up again, I found myself somewhat caught up in the narrative. Auslander attempted to turn an outlandish, somewhat inflammatory, storyline into a tale about a normal guy trying to live a normal life in a quiet, normal town. I won't say he succeeded, but overall I thought the story wasn't all bad. It isn't something I would recommend to everyone, but perhaps a student going for a degree in literature or psychology may find it interesting.
    Beezie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Everything about this book is good. Even its cover. I'd heard Auslander on NPR's This American Life and remember laughing at his story. This book, however, is perfect. Though, given the subject matter, I suppose, I wouldn't recommend it to sensitive types.
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    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Wouldn't recommend it. I felt annoyed by the main character throughout the whole book.  I found myself rooting against him and couldn't wait for the book to be finished so I could start reading something better.
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