The Yiddish Policemen's Union

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

by Michael Chabon
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The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

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 revelations of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. Proud, grateful, and longing to be American, the Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan panhandle, a vibrant, gritty, soulful, and complex frontier city that moves to the music of Yiddish. For sixty years they have been left alone, neglected and half-forgotten in a backwater of history. Now the District is set to revert to Alaskan control, and their dream is coming to an end: once again the tides of history threaten to sweep them up and carry them off into the unknown.

But 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. He and his half-Tlingit partner, Berko Shemets, can't catch a break in any of their outstanding cases. Landsman's new supervisor is the love of his life—and also his worst nightmare. And in the cheap hotel where he has washed up, someone has just committed a murder—right under Landsman's nose. Out of habit, obligation, and a mysterious sense that it somehow offers him a shot at redeeming himself, Landsman begins to investigate the killing of his neighbor, a former chess prodigy. But when word comes down from on high that the case is to be dropped immediately, Landsman soon finds himself contending with all the powerful forces of faith, obsession, hopefulness, evil, and salvation that are his heritage—and with theunfinished business of his marriage to Bina Gelbfish, the one person who understands his darkest fears.

At once a gripping whodunit, a love story, an homage to 1940s noir, and an exploration of the mysteries of exile and redemption, The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a novel only Michael Chabon could have written.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061438356
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/08/2007
Edition description: Limited Edition
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 7.20(w) x 10.50(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Moonglow and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, among many others. He lives in Berkeley, California with his wife, the novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their children.


Berkeley, California

Date of Birth:

May 24, 1963

Place of Birth:

Washington, D.C.


B.A., University of Pittsburgh; M.F.A., University of California at Irvine

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Yiddish Policemen's Union 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 126 reviews.
Juliep More than 1 year ago
I almost abandoned the book several times. I did not understand the background until after reading the book at then reading someone's review. I had to re-read several pages trying to make sense of them. I turned the glossary a lot, which I thought was helpful, but there were still a lot of words that were not listed. I don't plan on recommended it to friends.
liltie More than 1 year ago
This book is a work of art. Chabon reinvents the detective story while keeping its conventions. Take "The Big Sleep" meets "Blade Runner", make every character Jewish and set it in near-present Alaska. The imagery and description is so compelling and complex, I found myself re-reading paragraphs just for the enjoyment of the words. I got lost in this book, and that's the reason I read.
nbNYC More than 1 year ago
I read all the reviews and sympathize with the person who said he/she may have been thrown off by all the "Yiddish stuff." I love all of Chabon's books--The Adventures of Cavalier and Clay is one of my all-time favorites--and I loved this book too but I can definitely see how someone not familiar with the Yiddish language and Jewish culture would get lost and lose patience. However, if you do know about Hasidic Jewish culture, the tension between secular and religious Jews, and if you know a bit of Yiddish, this book is hilarious and, of course, because it's Chabon, brilliantly written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Imagine a land with Indians and Jews meshed together by Presidential decree, gangster Jews running around as card sharks and terrorists bent on resdiscovering the second Temple. Then through in a semi-rogue, rarely sober cop, living in a flea-bog hotel gets sucked in by the murder of a chess-obsessed heroin addict who is also supposed to be a messiah. Oh, and the cop's new boss, his ex-wife. This story for the ages runs through so many facets of history, ancient and otherwise, in an entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable read. Chabon is clearly a master storyteller with wit and intrigue to keep the story going. In this day of formulaic novels and give it to me now digital influences, this book is a welcome repreive and reminder of the power of the written word.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1948 with the collapse of Israel, the question of a Jewish State is temporarily resolved when Alaska becomes the homeland for the Diaspora Jews. However, the agreement is that this is not the Promised Land as the Alaskan Settlement Act authorized a sixty year lease. In two months, the Reversion occurs raising the question what to do about two million Alaskan Jews. --- Sitka police detective Meyer Landsman relies on alcohol to keep him from going over the edge. His marriage died alongside the abortion of their birth defected fetus while his sister died in a plane crash. His sleuthing skills no longer are keen as he does not care whether he solves a case or not. --- Shocking even himself, a murder in his dumpy Hotel Zamenhof awakens the once dedicated cop inside of Landsman as he goes for one last piece of glory knowing he will be unemployed once the reversion is implemented. The victim Emanuel Lasker was a harmless heroin addict who played chess no apparent motive surfaces as to why he was executed. Even more surprising is his former wife and suddenly current boss have reentered his life and he has been promoted the police chief for the final sixty days. Still Landsman allows nothing to intervene in his uncovering the identity of the culprit that is nothing except some hazy rumor that his sister was murdered instead of dying in an accident. --- This interesting alternate history police procedural frozen Noir provides a fascinating spin to the twentieth century issue of the Jewish homeland. The kvetching levels are stratospheric as fears of being abandoned again lead to the historical chosen mantra 'It's a strange time to be a Jew.' Landsman is an interesting character who finds redemption in the murder investigation. Though a conspiracy takes away from the prime theme of what if the Jews were placed elsewhere, readers will appreciate this innovative thriller. --- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a fan of the author, I have read most of his books. This one was good but difficult to follow. As others have said, the Yiddish was difficult to follow even with a glossary. But if, like me, you are a fan of his other work then you should read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The review I read of this book made it sound intriguing. I read about half of the book, but finally I gave it up as I found the story hard to follow. I think someone conversant with the language that Jewish people use would really enjoy this story. Unfortunately, for me, it was just too difficult trying to discern what the words were saying. My son says that he loves books by Michael Chabon, and I feel that this has potential to be a fine story. I just was stalled by the language barrier.
zabo More than 1 year ago
Great book.
Fatdog More than 1 year ago
This book is a very sharp parody/critique of Zionism. You don't need to be Jewish to really get this book (I'm not), but a good understanding of Judaism or Zionism would be helpful. As the dustjacket states, this books is all sorts of stories in one (part mystery, part critique, part story about love and life). I love the way Chabon writes, and am looking forward to reading more of his work.
slateraser More than 1 year ago
I have to admit I was a little put off by the cover. I was searching for a bookclub novel that was a little bit different. I found the title of the book to be intriquing and after reading the synopsis I purchased the book. I enjoyed the book right from the beginning. Michael Chabon has a way of developing each character so that you feel you could sit down and play chess with them. He develops the plot slowly with humor that actually had me laughing out loud at times. It is a classic "who done it" with an unbelievable twist. I thought to myself "Oy vey, who comes up with this stuff." His use of the Yiddish language throughout the book only adds to making it a more genuine read. I didn't even know there was a glossary in the back until I had turned the last page. The only negative comment that I have is that sometimes it was a bit verbose but I attribute that to Michael Chabbon's literary signature. It's a great read and one that should be added to everyone's must read list.
AbbyGirlWB More than 1 year ago
This book was really different. Not only an acceptable mystery but an intriguing "what if" on a major historical event. It's thoughtful and the characters are compelling. So believable that I hit Wikipedia upon finishing the book to find out if I'd missed my history class when this "happened". Not a quick read, but well worth the time.
afinkle More than 1 year ago
Mr. Chabon writes a masterpiece of a ¿what-if¿ portion of history. In this case, what if the Jews lost their War on Independence on 1948?

The solution was one proffered at that time, of region in Sitka Alaska for a 40 year term, after which there would be no more sanctuary.

In clear, lyric writing, Chabon brings out the historical facts and dress them with the ¿ghetto mentality¿ prevalent in European Jewry. No longer did the "New Jew" posses the Spartan-like Israeli warrior; instead, we still have the pacifistic minority who try to eke out a living. We see that self-determination is not even on the radar screen for this forlorn group.

This mystery is shrouded with ¿Jewish-isms¿ ¿ the cerebral approach; psychological turmoil; lust for life (over cover); some of the underground elements (which include some of the arcane elements of the red heifer paradox). It even characterizes the Chasidim, as the Other, as well as the fractious Jewish community.

I used this book in a book club with extraordinarily good results, particularly showing how the World War 2 generation coped to survive in a world hostile to Jews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I waited a month to get this book from my public library and I trudged through 130 pages and gave up. I loved The Mysteries of Pittsburgh but all of his other ones didn't tempt me. I decided to read this one because of all the recommendations. I'm sorry I wasted my time. It was very slow and tedious reading. Being jewish, I really thought I would enjoy the jewish theme but I was wrong.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I waited so long for this book to be published. I rushed to the bookstore to purchased it immediately.I regret that now.It's a flat,boring,uneven box. I finally plugged my way to the end, but it was tempting to just put it away and forget it. It wasn't worth the time invested in trying to get through it. Maybe I need to learn Yiddish,as many words were puzzling and caused the story the story to lose flow and tone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author has a gift for language akin to Anthony Burgess, but totally different in style. Chabon presents an alternative history of the aftermath of the Holocaust. Some members of my synagogue's book club found it offensive but I enjoyed the author's dark humor. A familiarity with Jewish tradition will make the book more enjoyable.
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Hey* motions u to come to her*
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