Chaim Skibelski rises from a pit of slaughter, leaving his dead townsmen and family behind, and returns to his home--now occupied by non-Jews. "In front of every house were piles of vows and promises, all in broken pieces. How I could see such things," he wonders, "I cannot tell you." So begins this magic-realist fiction, which is also a keen allegory of European Jews' war and postwar experience. "You think they can't kill us as often as they wish?" the narrator cries, and his distrust seems right. Though Chaim and the Rebbe are the only ones to have escaped the sudden roundup, they too, it soon becomes clear, are dead. The Rebbe has been transformed into a crow while Chaim's body seeps with blood and half of his face is missing. But if he's dead, why isn't he in the World to Come and why can some Poles and one German soldier see and hear him?
In his first novel, Joseph Skibell has created a fantasia both hideous and beautiful, a combination of mysticism, nightmare, and even humor. After Chaim and the Rebbe dig up other putrefied victims, the sorry, brave group moves painfully away from the village. Freezing days pass, perhaps years. "If you were the Rebbe, floating high above us, what you would see would be a great river of blood cutting a swath through the frozen winter hills." The author anatomizes the pilgrims' differences, cultural and religious, with love and wit. They are disputatious even in death--their debates threatening to overwhelm what holds them together. Though the phrase tour de force has been much abused, A Blessing on the Moon is exactly that: a daring fiction that shouldn't succeed on any level yet works on many.
From Library Journal
Chaim Skibelski is dead. Or is he? In the opening pages, he is shot and pushed into a pit along with his fellow Jews in a village in Poland. Chaim, accompanied by his rabbi in the form of a crow, escapes to wander among the living, unable to join the World To Come. His journey is divided into three parts. In the first, he revisits his old home, finding that a Polish family has taken over his business and personal effects. Here he meets Ola, a dying girl who can see him though her family can't. In the second part, he meets up with his old village and his family in a luxurious hotel that appears too good to be true. Finally, Chaim encounters Zalman and Kalman to complete a task involving the moon, the rabbi, and Skibelski himself. It is with this last step that the protagonist might finally find the peace that death should bring. Utterly different and surreal, this first novel takes an original approach to the Holocaust and leaves a lasting impression. For all literary collections.?Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., Ohio
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