Second Hand Smoke : A Novel(S1569)

by thane rosenbaum | Literature & Fiction | This book has not been rated.
ISBN: 0312254180 Global Overview for this book
Registered by SAMMY-SAMSEL of St. Louis, Missouri USA on 10/2/2005
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Journal Entry 1 by SAMMY-SAMSEL from St. Louis, Missouri USA on Sunday, October 2, 2005
Pre-numbered label used for registration.

hardback
303pp
published, 1999

FROM THE PUBLISHER
The smoke that once hovered over the concentration camps of Poland never left this world. It followed the survivors of the Holocaust wherever they went, and then settled in the lungs of their children. In the seamy atmosphere of Miami Beach's Collins Avenue, Mila Katz, a streaky card shark and confidante of mobsters, lives by the wits with which she survived the Holocaust. The secret about her son, Isaac Borowski, whom she abandoned in Poland, remains buried until it is slowly revealed in a series of deathbed confessions to her nurses. But there is another son, Duncan Katz, born in America and raised as an avenging vigilante, a Jewish fighting machine, a prisoner of inherited rage who becomes a Nazi-hunter, driven by the crimes committed against his parents. He loses his job with the government when he hatches a case against a former concentration camp guard, Feodor Malyshko. And he loses his family when his wife leaved him in order to shield their daughter from the Katz legacy of pain and unmourned loss. Duncan is exiled to New York City, where he stalks Malyshko and enacts the family's tragedy in another generation. Through his godfather, mafia chieftain Larry Breibart, Duncan learns of his half-brother, Isaac, a yoga master, healer, and messianic figure in Jewless Poland. Duncan decides to travel to Poland and find his brother. Together they retrace the family's derailed path, walking among the ghosts of the holocaust, confronting real and imaginary demons.

FROM THE CRITICS
Publishers Weekly
In this well-intentioned but overly emotional novel, Rosenbaum (whose novel-in-stories Elijah Visible won the 1996 Edgar Lewis Wallant Award) focuses on the lives of Holocaust survivors who cannot achieve peace of mind or soul. The narrative follows Duncan Katz, federal prosecutor and top Nazi hunter, in his obsessive quest for justice and vengeance. Duncan's difficult mother, Mila, survived Auschwitz-Birkenau and, in 1947, fled Warsaw's postwar anti-Semitism by escaping to Germany, where she met and married Duncan's father, Herschel, a survivor of Bergen-Belsen. Later, in Miami Beach, Mila becomes a confidante and collector for notorious Jewish crime boss Meyer Lansky. Duncan, born in 1953, achieves a karate black belt at age nine, stars in high-school football and evolves into a tough, armor-plated prisoner of his own exaggerated fears, nightmares, grief and rage. Like his protagonist, Rosenbaum is the son of Holocaust survivors and grew up in Miami Beach; he writes with empathetic insight into the traumas of those who never escaped their harrowing memories, often unconsciously passing their tortured psyches on to their children. Overzealous Duncan is a time bomb. He destroys a new Mercedes because it was made in Germany; gets fired from the Justice Department after posing as a neo-Nazi in order to tape-record conversations with a former concentration camp guard whom he tries unsuccessfully to deport. Although his moral passion heats up this intense parable, Duncan's overbearing self-absorption dominates the book, and the story turns to creaky melodrama when he discovers that he has a half-brother, Isaac Borowski, whom Mila secretly left behind in Poland. Isaac, who is caretaker of Warsaw's Jewish Cemetery as well as a yoga teacher and Zen disciple, teaches Duncan to let go of his anger, a denouement that feels as contrived as it is cathartic. (Apr.) FYI: Rosenbaum is literary editor of Tikkun.

Library Journal
Duncan Katz is obsessed. The tortured son of Mila Katz, a wily and paranoid Holocaust survivor, Duncan has an overriding raison d'etre: the identification, prosecution, and punishment of every living Nazi war criminal. When he obsessively pursues a man he believes to be the Butcher of Maidanek, Duncan loses his job and his marriage. Heading for Poland, he uncovers deeply held family secrets and regains some humanity and perspective. Tikkun literary editor Rosenbaum's nonlinear plot shifts from Mila's remembrances on her Miami deathbed to Duncan's ongoing irrational behavior. Frequent flashbacks are confusingly placed within scenes, Duncan's character is flat, and at times the message is strangely maudlin. Yet Rosenbaum manages to deliver a host of well-developed supporting characters in a thought-provoking exploration of the tragic effects of the Holocaust on the second generation of survivors. Recommended for large fiction or Jewish studies collections.--Christine Perkins, Jackson Cty. Lib. Svcs., Medford, Oregon

Released 18 yrs ago (2/13/2006 UTC) at St. Louis/Forest Park Hospital, 6150 Oakland Ave in Advance, Missouri USA

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