- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Harper (June 3, 2014)
- ISBN-10: 0062287877
- Source: Publisher
Slava Gelman is a lapsed Jew working for Century, an esteemed magazine in Manhattan. He’s exiled himself from his family in an attempt to shed the history and past that may tarnish the aristocratic-style writing demanded of him by Century.
Yet when he receives a phone call from his mother stating his grandmother has passed away, he throws all that behind him, crossing the East River to visit his grandfather. His grandmother meant the world to him. She was more like a mother than his own and was one of his few family members who understood Slava. When he learns that his grandmother was eligible for Holocaust reparations from the German government, Slava does the unbelievable: rewriting his grandmother’s Holocaust experience into his father’s. So desperate to write something of substance, he finds himself forging other restitution claims. While these individuals may not have suffered directly from the concentration camps, they represent those thousands of Jews that did.
Slava’s story himself in an interesting one. His family moved to the states in the 1970s from the Soviet republic and Slava has a huge gap in his knowledge of his family’s Jewish culture. He struggles to understand their need and determination for reparations, but struggles. His grandmother is his tie to his heritage and, with her death, he now lacks that connection. Despite the danger that comes in writing the fraudulent claims, it’s obvious that Slava is doing it to make up for what he was unable to do for his grandmother before she died.
I admit, initially I found it quite difficult to become invested in this novel. Slava is a unique character that I found difficult to connect with. He doesn’t easily or willingly expose his softer side, instead putting up a facade of a selfish and self-absorbed man. Yet, through his “conversations” and reflections on his grandmother, a more sympathetic side comes forth. It was then that I was finally able to embrace Slava for efforts and attempts to attain justice for so many.
At its very core, A Replacement Life is not only about finding oneself and embracing one’s destiny, but balancing on the fine line between what is right for one’s family and what is right in the greater sense of the word. It is a novel about achieving justice when justice is due, despite the consequences. Full of dark humor and witty banter, A Replacement Life isn’t your typical exploration of family love and justice. That said, its unique style is destined to make this a book meant to be discussed. Highly recommended.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this title. Please be sure to check out the other stops in this tour.