About a replacement life (Or read an excerpt)
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 lasting price from his family.
A Replacement Life is a dark, moving, and beautifully written novel about family, honor, and justice.
Praise for a replacement life
“A REPLACEMENT LIFE is a memorable debut by a wonderfully gifted young writer. In tracing the adventures of a ’curator of suffering’ who forges Holocaust restitution claims for his grandfather and his grandfather’s Russian immigrant neighbors in South Brooklyn, Boris Fishman has written a beautifully nuanced, tender, and often very funny novel about conscience and familial loyalty that will linger long in the memory.”
~Joyce Carol Oates
“With this novel, Slava Gelman takes his place among the great, young, and most memorably confused heroes of American fiction. Boris Fishman fearlessly tackles the grandest subjects, among them the nature of honor and the transferability of suffering. That he succeeds this well, and with so much style and grace, marks him as a writer not only to watch but envy.”
“A terrific talent dealing in serious themes–the sorrows of love, the anxiety for achievement, the drive to get beyond the family of your birth while staying loyal to it. The cast of characters on display here are living flesh and blood. Just open up the book and listen to them talk! Fishman is a gifted and accomplished writer, an honest one, grounded in the real.”
“With heart and guts and a deep empathy for its characters, this novel serves up a painful reminder that the past is never really past. Boris Fishman is a stunning writer, and A REPLACEMENT LIFE deserves a wide audience.”
“A Replacement Life is a novel that works beautifully on many levels. It’s about the compromises involved in telling any story, but most especially stories about the Holocaust, about family, and about love. Boris Fishman finds a new way to negotiate these tensions, a new language, even as he sometimes shows how he does it, a little magic act all its own.”
“A REPLACEMENT LIFE is a hell of a book. Told with amazing virtuosity, fun and serious, funny and sad, profound and eminently readable, it will make you happy until it’s over. And then you will be sad.”
“Boris Fishman’s A REPLACEMENT LIFE deftly straddles the line of a plot-driven novel of ideas and a moving account of a writer’s maturation, just as it depicts its hero caught between worlds–those of unassimilated Russian-Americans and New York media machers, fabricated Holocaust narratives and superficial glossy journalism, Old World grandfathers and fashionable young women. Fishman’s debut is suffused with elegant language and sly humor and composed with the authority of a novelist on intimate terms with both his subject matter and art form.”
~Teddy Wayne, author of THE LOVE SONG OF JONNY VALENTINE
“With a sense of humor and a sense of tragedy, A REPLACEMENT LIFE explores a hidden New York where the past is still insistently alive. There’s a touch of Gogol here, a touch of Babel, a touch of Dostoyevsky, but out of these materials Boris Fishman has fashioned something distinctively and triumphantly his own.”
~Brian Morton, author of STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING
“Buy this book for the story, but read it for the character of Grandfather, a fearless, exasperating, tormented, and singular creation. I wouldn’t want to meet him in an alley, but I could have read another book about him. A REPLACEMENT LIFE is that rare thing: A novel that asks the big questions, embedded in a page-turner haunted by characters who walk off the page.”