The Second Death of Samuel Auer
ISBN: 0151799555 Global Overview for this book
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From the dust cover...
Trouble is looking for Samuel Auer. He is a bull of a man, rugged and streetwise, a loving father, a hard working husband. But he's a frustrated man, too: his marriage is a bitter stalemate, and the grocery-luncheonette he's run since his father died is beginning to founder, as the neighborhood around Sixth and Cottonwood in South Philadelphia changes from Jewish to black. Sam's unwitting anger is the spark in this keg of powder; the explosion, when it comes, results in a tale at once fascinating and harrowing, impossible and inevitable - the passionate history of one of the most powerful and realistic characters in recent fiction.
It begins almost innocently: one day Sam slaps the wrist of a black boy who tries to swipe candy from his counter. From this petty incident erupts the rage that will pit Sam against his neighborhood, against his family, and ultimately against his society. When the boy's family smashes the store's plate-glass window in retribution, Sam arms himself to protect his property. But the face of the enemy changes quickly and subtly - it is no longer one black family, it is the ties of duty and propriety that have bound Auer over the years; and as the enemy changes, so do Auer's weapons - from carrying a gun and a knife, he moves to running numbers and sleeping with a black whore. By the end of the novel, of course, the enemy is Samuel Auer himself.
Bernard Packer is completely attuned to the temper of the time and the city in which he himself grew up, yet this is a story of rare immediacy - a parable, perhaps, of any city and Everyman - and Packer's real achievement lies in the fascination with which we are compelled to read of a man's grim self-destruction. Sam Auer's life is reduced to rubble as inexorably as the neighborhood around him, but he is character of such dimension and such human dignity that he commands our sympathy even while he becomes monstrous. Powered by a relentless vigor, an urban beat, full of expressive scenes and deft characterizations, "The Second Death of Samuel Auer" is so intense, strong, and perfectly realized that it clearly deserves to be called a major novel.