Book Club: Yiddish Policemen’s Union

Our choice for book club last week was Michael Chabon’s Yiddish Policemen’s Union. Several of us were big fans of his earlier work, especially the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Compared to Adventures, this book is something of a mixed-bag. I thought Chabon was very successful in creating an alternate history and peopling it with believable characters and atmosphere. In this sense, I liked this better than Roth’s The Plot Against America (which we read a few years back). I found the use of Yiddish terms challenging but important to creating this fictional world. It would have helped to have had a glossary though — another book club member who is Jewish and is familiar with Yiddish although not fluent agreed that this was tough going at times. I wasn’t satisfied with the ending but overall found this to be an enjoyable read — an interesting take on the organized crime genre, with Orthodox Jews filling in for the standard mafioso. Could easily see this as a film. Any suggestions on whom to cast?

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