Synopses & Reviews
And what happens when Bernie Karp, the impressionable fifteen-year-old son of the couple in whose home the rabbi lies frozen, inadvertently thaws out the ancient man? Such are the questions raised in this wickedly funny and ingenious novel by author Steve Stern, who, according to the Washington Post Book World, belongs in the company of such writers as Stanley Elkin, Cynthia Ozick, Michael Chabon, Mark Helprin, and Philip Roth, all of them innovative and restless practitioners of contemporary American-Jewish fantasy.
When the rabbi comes fully and mischievously to life, Bernie finds himself on an unexpected odyssey to understand his heritage (Jewish), his role in life (nebbish hero), and his destiny (to ensure the rabbi's future). and the reader enters the lives of the people who struggled to transport the holy man's block of ice, surviving pogroms, a transatlantic journey (in steerage, of course), an ice-house fire in Manhattan's Lower East Side, and finally, a train trip to the city on the Mississippi.
An epic novel in the spirit of Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Steve Stern's The Frozen Rabbi is a wildly entertaining yet deeply thoughtful look at the burdens inherent in handing down traditions from one generation to the next.
"A family of long-suffering eastern European Jews protects a frozen rabbi from pogroms, revolution, and racketeers in this intermittently fabulous multigenerational saga. Stern (The Angel of Forgetfulness) uses two narrative threads, one beginning in 1999 when 15-year-old Bernie Karp discovers a body in his family's freezer, the other beginning in 1889 when the rabbi is frozen during a winter storm. With a ferocious grasp of history and Yiddish humor, Stern follows the family of misfits and geniuses as they flee the Lodz ghetto in Poland with their icy cargo, eventually making their way to New York, Palestine, and Memphis, where, in 1999, the rabbi reawakens. Unfortunately, the brilliant Chagall-like eye Stern turns toward the first half of the 20th century is bleary when it glances at the recent past, in which the story concerns itself more with Bernie's inability to lose his virginity and the newly thawed holy man's lecherous and tedious determination to enjoy 1999, which he considers to be heaven on earth. Stern ties both narratives together neatly, but the remarkable characters who cart the frozen rabbi through such vividly realized hells on earth deserve a bolder legacy than the banal one they get." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Bernie Karp, the impressionable 15-year-old son of the couple in whose home a rabbi lies frozen, inadvertently thaws out the ancient man. When the rabbi comes fully and mischievously to life, Bernie finds himself on an unexpected odyssey to understand his heritage and his destiny.
Award-winning novelist Steve Stern's exhilarating epic recounts the story of how a nineteenth-century rabbi from a small Polish town ends up in a basement freezer in a suburban Memphis home at the end of the twentieth century. What happens when an impressionable teenage boy inadvertently thaws out the ancient man and brings him back to life is nothing short of miraculous.
About the Author
Steve Stern, winner of the National Jewish Book Award, is the author of several previous novels and novellas. He teaches at Skidmore College in upstate New York.