From Publishers Weekly
The past wrecks the male members of the Mirsky family differently in story writer Havazelet's haunting debut novel, his first book since 1998's Like Never Before. Growing up in early 1970s Queens, Nathan Mirsky idolizes his older brother, Daniel, a student antiwar activist at Columbia University, but after Daniel moves to the West Coast and begins a downward spiral into addiction, the brothers grow apart. Twenty years later, Nathan, a medical resident in Boston, receives a letter from Daniel mailed the same day Daniel was murdered. Their father, Sol, a widower and Holocaust survivor compiling an archive of Holocaust stories, accompanies Nathan to San Francisco to learn more about Daniel's death. There they meet Daniel's lover, Abby, and her six-year-old son, Ben (who isn't Daniel's). The story reveals less about Daniel's death than about the accumulated grievances and regrets that comprise his, as well as his father's, legacies. Havazelet treats painful subjects—the death of an infant, concentration camp scenes—with wrenching understatement, and his depictions of Nathan's therapy sessions provide insight and levity. The novel ends on a surprisingly optimistic note, but what lingers are its portraits of people bearing the weight of their family history.
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After earning accolades and awards for two complex and powerful short-story collections, Havazelet delivers a somber and labyrinthine novel of a family fractured by unspoken suffering. Stoic and determined Holocaust survivor Sol Mirsky becomes a successful New York shoe manufacturer, but his two sons are plagued by despair and anger. Handsome and charming Daniel, a 1960s student activist, ends up in San Francisco addicted to heroin. After many fits and starts, his troubled brother, Nathan, is about to complete his medical training. Nathan and his widower father, now devoted to amassing information about Holocaust victims, have long been estranged from Daniel, which makes his violent death in 1994 confounding as well as shocking. Traumatized, they fly to San Francisco and are profoundly disoriented by what they discover. Havazelet writes with almost hallucinatory acuity of the mind's endless churning of memories, fears, and dreams, of how the body manifests the soul's torment, and of the way the past is forever bleeding into the present, creating a darkly perceptive, transcendently rapturous drama of devastation and renewal. Seaman, Donna