A Replacement Life: A Novel (P.S. (Paperback))
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Winner of the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award
Winner of the American Library Association's Sophie Brody Medal
Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award
A singularly talented writer makes his literary debut with this provocative, soulful, and sometimes hilarious story of a failed journalist asked to do the unthinkable: Forge Holocaust-restitution claims for old Russian Jews in Brooklyn, New York.
Yevgeny Gelman, grandfather of Slava Gelman, “didn’t suffer in the exact way” he needs to have suffered to qualify for the restitution the German government has been paying out to Holocaust survivors. But suffer he has—as a Jew in the war; as a second-class citizen in the USSR; as an immigrant to America. So? Isn’t his grandson a “writer”?
High-minded Slava wants to put all this immigrant scraping behind him. Only the American Dream is not panning out for him—Century, the legendary magazine where he works as a researcher, wants nothing greater from him. Slava wants to be a correct, blameless American—but he wants to be a lionized writer even more.
Slava’s turn as the Forger of South Brooklyn teaches him that not every fact is the truth, and not every lie a falsehood. It takes more than law-abiding to become an American; it takes the same self-reinvention in which his people excel. Intoxicated and unmoored by his inventions, Slava risks exposure. Cornered, he commits an irrevocable act that finally grants him a sense of home in America, but not before collecting a price from his family.
A Replacement Life is a dark, moving, and beautifully written novel about family, honor, and justice.
gave up its secrets quite readily—it was a grid, Manhattan. The DNA piece was like some kind of Moscow or Paris—everything side streets, dead ends, parabolas, though its conclusion arrived with new force each time he read it, the mystery of which was only more frustrating. Slava studied Beau at the head of the conference table as if this would dislodge from the older man’s soul some clue to the information that eluded the younger. But it didn’t. Beau was talking to Kate Tadaka. She clutched a
kissed slowly, the human traffic of First Avenue taking them into its indifferent arms, the city’s special combination of curiosity and resentment. He tingled with a strange sensation; he was unconcerned with the walkers around him in return, but amiably so. When he pulled back, he said, “Come on. I want to hear it.” “Jesus!” she said. “Fine.” She took his arm and pushed him around the corner. The gleam and noise of the avenue receded. Slava felt the building’s wall at his back, the bricks
worried, close set of the eyes, her face had preserved its young, unblemished beauty. A buttery gleam rose from the skin. “The boy!” she shrieked. Holding up her long yellow dish gloves as if placating a mugger, she waddled toward Slava and enclosed him in the flab of her arms. Berta also had to make a demonstration before Grandfather. One phone call from him to the assignments coordinator at the home-nurse agency, who received from Grandfather a monthly gift of chocolates and perfume, and Berta
toppled Arianna. “What’s with you?” she said, screwing up her face. “Tell you later,” he said. “Professor Morton’s office,” a peppy, young voice said when he finally dialed. It had a proprietary air, its owner charged with guarding the oft-stormed gates of Andrew Morton’s life. Slava made himself stop pacing and sit down in a torn armchair. “Professor Morton, please,” he said. “And who may I say is calling?” the sun beamed protectively on the other end of the line. “Peter Devicki,” Slava
see. We need a flashlight.” “A flashlight?” “Just come with,” she said. They walked east. He took her hand in his, and she answered: They were going to try. The streets of the Upper West Side were falling quiet with the temporary exception of Broadway. They crossed Amsterdam, then Columbus—they were going to Central Park. But when they reached its edge, she kept going: in, past the perimeter. “In the dark, Arianna?” he said. “Don’t be a codger.” He tried to erase his discomfort. “Are we