Saturday, February 23, 2013

Shlepping the Exile by Michael Wex

Another book I only finished because it was on my book club reading list.  We chose it because we all enjoyed his other novel, Frumkiss Family Business, which was light and funny but an easy read.  This book had some of the same humour so parts were entertaining, but it was much harder to follow.  First of all, a lot of it consisted of Yiddish expressions and dialogue - some of it was explained either within the text or in a glossary but not all of it.  So I couldn't understand all of the language - and even when it was translated, it broke up the flow to have to read the Yiddish and then the translation.  A Yiddish speaker may enjoy the book better.  But even once I got past the language barrier, I found the book confusing - it jumped around a lot and it was often hard to follow the author's train of thought.  The premise was a good one - it's written from the perspective of the only Orthodox Jewish boy living in a small town in Alberta shortly after the Second World War.  We see his views of his parents - his father a devout man but otherwise a bit of a loser, his mother seemingly lost in her own world - his friends, another Jewish boy a little older than him who introduces him to girls and porn and the son of the Chinese restaurant owner, one of the other few minorities in the largely Ukrainian town, and the other members of the town's Jewish and non-Jewish communities.  His observations are witty and his mixed feelings on the sudden death of his father are sympathetic, but overall I found the book too confusing to be a good entertaining read.

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