Book Review: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

YiddishReminder: Page Turners Book club will be discussing The Yiddish Policemen’s Union on Thursday, April 12 at 3 p.m.

Detective Landsman is living in a dive where a man on another floor dies mysteriously. The fact that the dead man played chess stirs something inside Landsman, leading him to think about his chess-playing father and how the Jewish people ended up in Sitka in the first place, not to mention that they will soon be thrown out. This story takes place in an alternate history Alaska, where Israel was established after WWII but promptly fell apart in 1948. Many Jewish refugees ended up in Sitka, Alaska but only for a period of 60 years, at which point the land reverts back to the Native Americans in that area. The impending Reversion serves as a backdrop for this mystery, and comes to play a larger and larger part in the story as it moves along.

Chabon has an ability to describe something so well that the reader doesn’t just see it, but can smell and taste and feel it as well. The characters felt real and I was immediately drawn into their lives and worried for them and cheered them on. The pace felt a little slow around the middle but it certainly picked up in the last quarter, leaving me to wonder how a resolution could possibly be attained in so little space. However, it fits and fits satisfyingly well. As a Gentile, I probably would have benefitted from a pronunciation guide for some of the Yiddish words and names, but the lack of such a guide certainly did not stand as a hindrance to reading and enjoying the book. It’s a great book and I’m eager to read more from Michael Chabon.

Review by Jessica A.


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