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A Replacement Life: A Novel Kindle Edition

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Length: 341 pages Word Wise: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Critic and short story writer Fishman’s first novel concerns the risks and the rewards of fiction, but it isn’t as postmodern as that sounds. Instead, it’s a straight-ahead story about committing fraud for all the right reasons—love, family, and Holocaust restitution. Slava Gelman, lapsed Jew from a former Soviet republic, is a blocked writer who works at Century, a venerable magazine headquartered in Manhattan. Slava’s grandfather, Yevgeny, a notorious fixer and thug with a heart of gold, is always on the take. When it turns out that Slava’s recently deceased grandmother would have been eligible for reparations from the German government, Slava decides to forge the claim, grafting the scanty details of her terrible wartime experiences onto his grandfather’s. Soon, in part because of Slava’s burning desire to write, he is forging dozens of restitution claims. Though saccharinity and righteousness taint this tale, Fishman has talent galore, and an attractive love interest, funny set-pieces, a brochure-beautiful Big Apple, and spectacular, acutely self-conscious prose are all most enjoyable. --Michael Autrey

Review

"The debut novel from Fishman shines with a love for language and craft." ---Publishers Weekly Starred Reviews

Product Details

  • File Size: 664 KB
  • Print Length: 341 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (June 3, 2014)
  • Publication Date: June 3, 2014
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00FJ37CJ0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,913 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Maine Colonial TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When I read the description of A Replacement Life, I thought: Are you kidding? A book about a writer helping Russian Jews falsely claim Holocaust restitution funds? Considering we still have plenty of anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers around, it just seemed like breathtaking--maybe even offensive--chutzpah to write this.

Although this scheme is what moves the plot along, it's secondary to the real subject. The book is really about Slava's complicated love for his grandmother, who has just died. Her experiences when Minsk was overrun by the Nazis would have legitimately qualified her for restitution, Slava's grandfather, Yevgeny says, so why shouldn't you, Mr. Big Shot Writer, write an application for me? Slava has always wanted to be a real writer, and he's not getting anywhere in his job at Century magazine. He uses his best writing to tell his grandmother's story through these affidavits.

When I was little, like most kids I was so self-centered I had barely any curiosity about the pasts of my parents, grandparents and other relatives. That changed when I got older, and I was lucky enough to hear some of their stories. Now that they are gone, though, I wish I'd found out so much more. Same thing with Slava, and with the loss of his grandmother, he realizes her generation won't last much longer. These stories are his way of connecting with them, and of honoring his grandmother and her fellow survivors of World War II and the anti-Semitism of the Soviet Union.

Boris Fishman has the kind of half-drunk love for the English language that you only see in writers for whom English is not their first language. It's a delight to read his flamboyant descriptions, unique associations and colorful depictions of the lives of eastern European immigrants in Brooklyn. These are characters and a side of immigrant America you won't see as a tourist.

4.5 stars
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By H. T. Price on June 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book. It is funny, smart and deceptively brilliant. Its such a fun read that one begins to forget how brilliantly constructed it is. This writer has talent in making a great novel both deep and entertaining. Top notch.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
That's how Slava Gelman ultimately ends up rationalizing what he ends up doing for his grandfather and a cluster of his grandfather's elderly friends in Brooklyn's community of Soviet Jews. They survived the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union -- but in the wrong way, since they ended up fighting as partisans or soldiers, or ending up in exile in places like Uzbekistan, rather than in concentration camps or ghettos. Which means, alas, that they won't be eligible for some attractive new reparations offers from the German government. Unless, that is, Slava's grandfather -- known for his ability to finagle a great deal -- can persuade Slava, a wannabe writer stuck in limbo on the fringes of the staff at one of New York's most prestigious magazines, to use his thwarted talents in an entirely new direction. Perhaps, Yevgeny suggests, he can get a little bit creative with their letters of application. "You're a writer, aren't you?"

Thus begins what Slava knows to be a fraudulent endeavor, and yet it's one that he can't resist -- it brings him back in closer touch with the memory of his grandmother, who DID experience all of these things, but who has just died, as well as to the community from which until now he has tried to distance himself. It is those elements of this novel that brought Slava alive for me as a character: his frustration with his elders, his attempts to build a life as an American, even as his parents are stuck in the past. Fishman is at his best here, pointing out how "a Ukrainian's hate of a Russian was still warmer than his love of an American", and the way in which quitting the Soviet Union for the United States has left them "marooned on a new island except for what their children would do.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By P. S. W. on June 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I find A Replacment Life to be darkly funny, with wickedly astute observations. Richly drawn characters and fascinating story. Recommended!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Nancy J. Salen on July 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What an interesting book. In the beginning, I had a slightly difficult time with the sometimes deliberately fractured English, but I got used to the writing as I continued to read the book. Imagine this: the main character, Slava,writes mostly made-up stories for people who want repatrations from the German Govn. because of crimes against Jews during WWll. Of course, these made up stories are what did, in fact, actually happen to some individuals during the war, but not necessarily to the people whom the writer is trying to help. Does Slava get caught? A major theme running through the book is the relationship the writer has to his now-deceased grandmother and his living grandfather. How do we get to know the stories of the departed? Who can tell the real stories of what these people lived through? Does it really matter in the end if the stories happened to this person rather than that person: don't all people who suffered under the Nazis deserve reparations?
Another theme in the book is the immigration story: these immigrants are Russian Jews. Though we have read their stories before, when told to us in this book, their stories take on extra poignancy. You ought not to rush through this book: enjoy the accents, the maneuvers of the people trying to influence Slava. And, don't forget two love stories that run through the book. Plus, Slava's love story with his deceased grandmother is enough to bring tears to the eyes. Enjoy
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