Book Review of The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander (9)

This is going to be a little bit of a cop out post. I write a book review of each book I read and I post them on GoodReads. So if you are reading this you probably read those. So yeah, it won’t be all that unique of a blog post. Here it is:

I think this book wasn’t for me.

A book of Englander’s short fiction, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, had me seeking out a novel by Englander. I wanted to see him weave a longer tale and wondered when it would come about. Instead I stumbled upon a novel he had written in 2007 – this one.

First the story. Kaddish and Lillian live in Argentina with their son Pato. They loose their son to the government by means of kidnapping. They risk everything to try and get him back. What follows should be hopeful, heartbreaking, page turning, etc. but it isn’t. At least not very often.

Maybe it didn’t resonate with me because prior to this I didn’t know of the Jewish oppression that took place throughout the 70s and still continues in some form to this day. I’m sure what took place in this novel was factual for a lot of families but it still didn’t hit home. The characters felt hollow even before they lost their son. The least hollow character was the son and he’s only in the first quarter of the book.

I don’t think it was Englander’s writing either. His prose is still lovely and quite refined, though maybe not so much as What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank. Still that was written 5 years later. A lot can happen in that amount of time. Or maybe his stories are just much punchier as short fiction. Still, I look forward to his next novel. And maybe I’ll try not to carry such a high expectation.

[3 out of 5 stars]


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