Devo­ra in Exile: Stories

Bar­bara Cherne

  • Review
By – September 16, 2011

In com­pos­ing this slim vol­ume of four linked sto­ries, Cherne was inspired by the mem­o­ries of a friend who, as a child, had fled with her fam­i­ly from Rus­sia dur­ing that country’s rev­o­lu­tion in 1917. When the book opens, the sto­ries’ pro­tag­o­nist, Devo­ra Mar­cus, is an elder­ly wid­ow liv­ing in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia. The first sto­ry, The Con­ver­sion,” in which Devo­ra falls briefly under a guru’s spell before reclaim­ing her Jew­ish iden­ti­ty, is per­haps the book’s strongest, although some read­ers may find the inten­si­ty of Devora’s bond to the young man who comes to her home to teach her Hebrew as depict­ed in A Holo­caust in My Break­fast Room” to be the most emo­tion­al­ly pow­er­ful and poignant aspect of the work. Occa­sion­al­ly repet­i­tive (as with the dis­turb­ing mate­r­i­al con­cern­ing the rape of Devora’s elder sis­ter back in Rus­sia), Devo­ra in Exile nonethe­less draws us in and allows us to get to know a sym­pa­thet­ic char­ac­ter and, with the excep­tion of the brief sec­ond piece, offers full and com­pelling stories.

Eri­ka Drei­fus’s lat­est book, Birthright: Poems, was pub­lished by Kel­say Books in Novem­ber 2019. Her short-sto­ry col­lec­tion Qui­et Amer­i­cans was named an Amer­i­can Library Association/​Sophie Brody Medal Hon­or Title for out­stand­ing achieve­ment in Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture. An Adjunct Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish at Baruch Col­lege of The City Uni­ver­si­ty of New York, Eri­ka is deeply engaged with and con­ver­sant in con­tem­po­rary lit­er­a­ture, pub­lish­ing, and Jew­ish writ­ing. She is also the edi­tor and pub­lish­er of The Prac­tic­ing Writer, a free (and pop­u­lar) e‑newsletter that fea­tures oppor­tu­ni­ties and resources for fic­tion­ists, poets, and writ­ers of cre­ative nonfiction. 

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