STARRED REVIEW
October 2020

The Lost Shtetl

A long time ago, amid circumstances that no one seems so sure about anymore, a small Jewish village in Poland fell off the map of the world.
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A long time ago, amid circumstances that no one seems so sure about anymore, a small Jewish village in Poland fell off the map of the world. Surrounded by thick forests, Kreskol has existed in a self-sustained bubble of peaceful isolation for decades, thereby missing the best of human civilization—like electricity, indoor plumbing and the internet—as well as the worst, namely the Holocaust and the Cold War. It is surprising, then, that what brings this peace crashing down isn’t an epic catastrophe but rather something as mundane as a marital dispute.

When young Pesha Lindauer disappears, everyone suspects foul play by her husband, Ishmael, who is also nowhere to be found. Having no means to further investigate the scandal, the rabbis convince young Yankel Lewinkopf, an outcast and an orphan, to find his way to the nearest town and inform the authorities of the suspected crime. Yankel leaves reluctantly, only to return three months later in a helicopter with gentiles who are less interested in solving the crime than in immediately thrusting Kreskol into the 21st century.

First-time novelist Max Gross is funny, insightful and mysterious in sharing what is essentially a coming-of-age story not only for Pesha, Ishmael and Yankel, each of whom realizes that they can choose to lead a different life, but also for an entire village that’s at once suspicious of and fascinated by the inundation of money and modern conveniences.

The Lost Shtetl is a fascinating combination of adventure, laughs and heartache, perfect for fans of Michael Chabon.

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The Lost Shtetl

The Lost Shtetl

HarperVia
ISBN 9780062991126

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