In ninety-five brief chapters, this novel acquaints us with an extended family and its secrets, past and present. In 2005, a letter from a woman claiming to be their great-aunt prompts Jewish-American cousins Eliza Berlin and Louisa “Lemon” Leopold to travel to Germany. There, at the beginning of the previous century, their great-grandfather, Dr. Jozef Apfel, was a prominent psychoanalyst. The novel reveals secrets and traumas within the lives of the cousins as well as the truth behind their great-grandfather’s most mysterious case, that of “Elsa Z.” At various times, the reader will notice what seems to be the sparest of expository prose (the body of one chapter consists of a single twelve-word sentence); occasionally, there is a page-length paragraph; some sections particularly impress with their use of dialogue or detail. Although some readers may initially find it difficult to track all the characters, overall, the novel is extremely engaging, shifting in time and place with artful connections and literary grace. Chronology.
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.