The Yid

Picador. Feb. 2016. 320p. ISBN 9781250079039. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781250079046. F
OrangeReviewStarIt's early 1953 in Stalin's Russia, and empty cattle cars are rumbling toward population centers across the vast country. Their objective: to collect the nation's Jews in a final pogrom. In this fantastical (and fantastic) debut novel by reporter and writer Goldberg, who immigrated to the United States from the USSR in 1973, a troupe of unlikely Soviet characters assembles with a single objective. Having heard rumors of the impending pogrom, which would have followed the so-called doctors' plot (in which numerous Jewish Soviet doctors were actually arrested for supposedly trying to assassinate top Soviet leaders), our band of unlikely conspirators sets out to do in Stalin before his henchmen unleash the pogrom. The conspirators include Solomon Shimonovich Levinson, an elderly actor from the former Jewish State Theater; his friends Aleksandr Kogan, a prominent surgeon who served as a Red Army gunner during the revolution, and Frederick Lewis, an African American working in the country as an engineer; and a mysterious young woman named Kima Petrova. To add to this darkly bubbling froth, the author blends in such historical figures as Paul Robeson, Solomon Mikhoels, and Marc Chagall and treats us to poetry by Anna Akhmatova in Russian and English. The author's justification (none needed!) for his work: "A leap of fiction brings with it the privilege to blend history with fantasy."
VERDICT Highly recommended for readers with a grasp of history who enjoy imaginative deviations from what we think we know as historical truth. [See Prepub Alert, 8/3/15.]
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