Shadows on the Hudson

Shadows on the Hudson
Image courtesy of Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
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Set in New York in the late forties, Shadows on the Hudson presents the intertwined lives of a group of prosperous Jewish refugees. Boris Makaver is the center of the circle, a pious and wealthy businessman. His greatest trial is his daughter, Anna, unlucky in her choice of husbands. Married first to Yasha Kotik, a lunatic actor, and then to a hapless, unemployed attorney, she plans to escape with Hertz Grein, a man torn between ascetic yearnings and romantic entanglements. Amid family quarrels and religious debates, marriages of love and convenience are attempted and abandoned, lovers separate, and spouses die or even manage to return from the dead.

From the gloomy Upper West Side apartment of Boris Makaver to the pastel resorts of Miami, Singer covers the territory of American Jewry in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Though mystical and religious answers to life's enigmas are fervently sought, there is an underlying pessimism about humankind's behavior. It is manifested in crooked séances, the theatrical trickeries of Yasha Kotik, and the disparate quality of Grein's penitence. This darkest of Singer's great tragicomic novels was serialized in the Forward in the fifties. Now finally published in English translation, it is revealed to be one of Singer's major works.

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