Feb 9, 2012

Review: Hope: A Tragedy

Imagine you move your family to a farm house in a town no one has ever heard of, hoping to start anew, and you find a 90 year old Anne Frank hiding in your attic, and it turns out that Anne Frank is kind of a bitch.  That's what happens to Solomon Kugel in Hope: A Tragedy, by Shalom Auslander.

To add to this pain, he has a mother who pretends she was a victim of the Holocaust as an outlet for her guilt over not being a victim.  This includes excusing every crazy action with "ever since the war," and handing her son a bar of soap in a velvet lined box and claiming it's his aunt ("Why does it say Ivory on it?").  She raised her son to be afraid of everything, resulting in him living in a state of perpetual panic and constantly updating a mental list of what he should grab in the event he needs to copy his new friend Anne Frank and hide in an attic (iPod, aloe, and credit card are among these items).  

This is an hilarious overview of cultural guilt.  Before the Kugels purchased the farm, a German family lived there and were forced to care for her because it would be awful if a German hurt Anne Frank some more.  Kugel is faced with the dilemma of trying to explain how being Jewish means he can't toss Anne out on the street.  It's great.  

The only thing I didn't like about this novel was the omission of all quotation marks.  I understand the stylistic choice: Kugel is mentally screwy, so there's a chance that the entire novel is taking place in his head.  Quotation marks are just a personal preference of mine.  I also could have used a little more Anne Frank, she's a riot.

This is technically an adult book, but I think a snarky and sarcastic teenager with a twisted sense of humor would adore this novel.  Check it out!

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