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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007149832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007149834
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (558 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

[Signature]Reviewed by Jess WalterThey are the "frozen Chosen," two million people living, dying and kvetching in Sitka, Alaska, the temporary homeland established for displaced World War II Jews in Chabon's ambitious and entertaining new novel. It is—deep breath now—a murder-mystery speculative-history Jewish-identity noir chess thriller, so perhaps it's no surprise that, in the back half of the book, the moving parts become unwieldy; Chabon is juggling narrative chainsaws here.The novel begins—the same way that Philip Roth launched The Plot Against America—with a fascinating historical footnote: what if, as Franklin Roosevelt proposed on the eve of World War II, a temporary Jewish settlement had been established on the Alaska panhandle? Roosevelt's plan went nowhere, but Chabon runs the idea into the present, back-loading his tale with a haunting history. Israel failed to get a foothold in the Middle East, and since the Sitka solution was only temporary, Alaskan Jews are about to lose their cold homeland. The book's timeless refrain: "It's a strange time to be a Jew."Into this world arrives Chabon's Chandler-ready hero, Meyer Landsman, a drunken rogue cop who wakes in a flophouse to find that one of his neighbors has been murdered. With his half-Tlingit, half-Jewish partner and his sexy-tough boss, who happens also to be his ex-wife, Landsman investigates a fascinating underworld of Orthodox black-hat gangs and crime-lord rabbis. Chabon's "Alyeska" is an act of fearless imagination, more evidence of the soaring talent of his previous genre-blender, the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.Eventually, however, Chabon's homage to noir feels heavy-handed, with too many scenes of snappy tough-guy banter and too much of the kind of elaborate thriller plotting that requires long explanations and offscreen conspiracies.Chabon can certainly write noir—or whatever else he wants; his recent Sherlock Holmes novel, The Final Solution, was lovely, even if the New York Times Book Review sniffed its surprise that the mystery novel would "appeal to the real writer." Should any other snobs mistake Chabon for anything less than a real writer, this book offers new evidence of his peerless storytelling and style. Characters have skin "as pale as a page of commentary" and rough voices "like an onion rolling in a bucket." It's a solid performance that would have been even better with a little more Yiddish and a little less police. (May)Jess Walter was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award for The Zero and the winner of the 2006 Edgar Award for best novel for Citizen Vince.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Does The Yiddish Policemen's Union live up to Michael Chabon's formidable reputation? There is no consensus: some critics called the novel the spiritual heir to the Pulitzer Prize?winning Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000); others thought it a disappointing aberration. As in Kavalier & Clay, Chabon explores issues of identity, assimilation, and mass culture, but he also pays homage to the noir detective novel—with mixed results. The New York Times called Landsman "one of the most appealing detective heroes to come along since Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe," while the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette felt that the work "came nowhere close to making the cut of a Raymond Chandler novel." Critics similarly disagreed about the writing, the convoluted plot, the symbolism of the Jewish-Native American conflict, and the controversial use of Yiddish slurs and caricatures. If not a glowing success, The Yiddish Policemen's Union nonetheless illustrates the rare talents and creativity of its author.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


More About the Author

Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, A Model World, Wonder Boys, Werewolves in Their Youth, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, The Final Solution, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Maps and Legends, Gentlemen of the Road, and the middle grade book Summerland.

He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, the novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their children. You can visit Michael online at www.michaelchabon.com

Customer Reviews

I keep using the word beautiful to describe Chabon's prose.
Nate Kowal
The characters were interestingly developed, but the story was plodding and uninteresting; I read it to the end but it was not to my liking.
Michael Holmes
I found all of the characters interesting and very well drawn, and the plot really grabs hold of you.
Frank J. Konopka

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

115 of 124 people found the following review helpful By Edward Aycock on May 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I've been reading Chabon since I first picked up "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" over a decade-and-a-half ago, and it's been fun seeing his writing evolve with each new work. I believe that "Kavalier and Clay" is one of the best American novels of the past ten years, and that's not even because I'm such a comic book fan; it's just an extraordinary novel on many levels. When I heard of the concept of "Yiddish Policemen's Union," I was worried that it sounded a bit too high concept; then I considered that Chabon is such a great writer that I'll forgive him for anything - even his recent "Simpson's" voiceover where he and Jonathan Franzen got into a fistfight. Luckily, no forgiveness needs to be granted (like Chabon couldn't care less anyhow; who am I in the Kakutani-era of literary criticism?) Chabon's newest novel is just further confirmation of his skill.

This book is unique as it's not a speculative novel masquerading as Jewish noir, nor is it noir with a glossy veneer: it's everything at once. The questions of Jewish identity and what will happen to the community once the Reversion happens never takes away from the main tale; it's so well tucked in with the main action that Chabon never goes off on a tangent. All the while, Chabon plows ahead with a mystery that will set off chuckles of recognition as he hits and bounces upon every noir convention like a pinball. Informers, grieving mothers, loyal partners, the obligatory moment when an unconnected crime enters the frame - it's all there, but with its overlay of the Jewish community in the north, it feels fresh.

A few reviewers have commented that they missed out on Jewish in-jokes.
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220 of 243 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
said the words out loud those who had assumed Yiddish was a language of the past only, suddenly felt it had been revived. . . . It seemed to be saying `khbin nisht vos ikh bin amol geven. I am not what I once was. Ober `khbin nisht geshtorbn. Ikh leb. But I did not die. I live." Irena Klepfisz.

Yiddish is certainly not dead in Michael Chabon's "The Yiddish Policemen's Union". In fact, the primary language of Jews throughout the "Pale of Settlement" (where Jews were allowed to live in Imperial Russia) suffuses this book with the rich aroma of a language whose every word can take on a paragraph or even chapter of meaning in the hands of the right speaker. Chabon is one such speaker (or writer) and "The Yiddish Policemen's Union" is a book that is rich in enjoyment.

"The Yiddish Policemen's Union" is an artful blend of genres, a blend of crime fiction and alternate history. I think of it as a blend of Dashiell Hammett's dark crime stories like "Red Harvest" and Philip Roth's alternate-history novel "The Plot Against America".

Chabon has created a world in which there is no Israel. Rather, Israel had been crushed in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Since that time the United States, partly as a result of guilt over the Holocaust has created a temporary homeland for displaced European Jews in and around Sitka, Alaska. Yiddish, not Hebrew, is the primary language. As the book opens, close to 60-years after the end of Israel, Sitka is due to revert back to U.S. control and the million or so inhabitants face the prospect of being stateless refugees. The hero, or protagonist, is Detective Meyer Landsman.
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330 of 391 people found the following review helpful By David Englander on May 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
What can you say about a book like this? Not much without giving something away. It's audacious as can be believed. What's it about? Read the Publisher's Weekly blurb above. Or, better yet, don't.

Chabon is a genius and a madman, a wizard and a mensch. He's a wrecking crew, a culture-blender, and a rebbe packing heat. Who else would, or could, take Nick Charles and put him in Shalom Shachna's body? (Or maybe it's the other way around.) Equal parts Kabbalah and Ka-Bar, it's funny and gripping, and entertaining, and so heartbreaking at times it's hard to breathe.

In sum, I found it extraordinary - the concept, the language, the characters and the plot. It's not perfect, but it is simply one of the best novels I've read in a decade. Is that "helpful"? I doubt it. If I were you, I wouldn't want to know more. Spoilers are odious, irrelevant, and available elsewhere. If you love Chandler, Hammett, Roth, and I.B. Singer, I suspect you will love this.

Put some Manischewitz in a lowball and sit by the electric fire and crack this book open.
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93 of 114 people found the following review helpful By Newton Munnow on May 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Welcome to Alaska, the temporary home of a large Jewish colony now on the edge of repatriation. Chabon has set his sights high, again, but this time there seem to be so many pieces to put in place, so many portraits to paint in his newly formed universe, that at times the book feels more like a heavy wade than a pleasure. Sure, we all know Chabon can write his contemporaries off the page, but I have the feeling this will be remembered as a novel that landed just wide of the target. If you're going to play with a genre like mystery, you take on not just machinations of plot, but also of pacing and that's my main gripe despite the gorgeous prose. After 150 pages of a mystery, you'd usually like to know more than that the story revolves around the body of a former chess player. It's hard to think of a writer with Chabon's skill doing anything that isn't deliberate, but just because he sets his new world in Alaska, did it have to move at such a glacial rate?
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