From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Cartoonist and educator Sturm turns in a tightly woven graphic novella about a shtetl craftsman whose life and livelihood shatter against the rising industrial behemoth of the early 20th century. Mendleman is a nervous rug weaver with a child on the way. His devotion to his craft brings him to the brink of art, but when he suddenly loses his major client to modernization, he finds himself, effectively, patronless. Suddenly a castaway amid economic forces that render his virtues meaningless, he collapses as his previously unnamable anxieties find specific and destructive form. Sturm's tale comprises a day's cycle, and the magnitude of Mendleman's radical descent must sometimes be stated or inferred. But most of the book's important details are effectively portrayed as part of the quotidian warp and woof of life's patterns and relationships. Sturm has infused his reliably disciplined storytelling style with slow pacing and spare graphics, but some bravura sequences give the story impact. Although the details of rural Eastern European Jewish life at the turn of the century ring true, the book is less rooted in a specifically explicated setting than some of Sturm's previous historical fictions, allowing Mendleman's dilemma to function as a broader metaphor for the perpetual struggle between independent creativity and impersonal market forces. (Apr.)
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From School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up–Mendleman is a Jewish rug maker in early-20th-century Eastern Europe. His wife is pregnant with their first child and due any minute, but he must go to the market to make money for his family to survive. He attempts to sell his wares to no avail. The shop he frequented in the past has changed owners and no longer carries quality items like his. Mendleman presses on and attempts to sell his rugs at the emporium, where they are willing to pay a fraction of what he used to make, and his pieces are thrown onto a heap of other rugs for sale. Mendleman feels he has no choice and completes the sale. This catalyzes an existential crisis for him. His work used to give him so much pride, but he is forced to surrender for money. With expressive and moody imagery, Sturm's story is at once original and universal. The struggle to maintain one's identity after losing a job is a tough one, and the author does an excellent job conveying it. With some obscene language, nudity, and brief mention of sex, this graphic novel is for mature readers.–Melissa Houlroyd, formerly at Brighton Memorial Library, Rochester, NYα(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.