L’Chaim and Lamentations

  • Review
By – May 22, 2020

In this col­lec­tion of short sto­ries, L’Chaim and Lamen­ta­tions, Craig Darch brings life and feel­ing into nar­ra­tives that weave through multi­gen­er­a­tional lens­es. With­out shy­ing away from con­tro­ver­sial sub­jects, Darch intro­duces com­plex char­ac­ters whose rela­tion­ships reflect the lay­ers of the expe­ri­ences of old­er adults.

The set­tings around and ages of his pro­tag­o­nists give the book the over­ar­ch­ing struc­ture that holds the sto­ries togeth­er. Although Darch does not direct­ly address immi­gra­tion as a theme, he art­ful­ly weaves the idea of bridg­ing the old world and the new. With six of the sto­ries firm­ly plant­ed in the Unit­ed States, all sev­en feel con­nect­ed to mul­ti­ple places in time and space, reach­ing back to East­ern Europe and for­wards to an unimag­in­able future.

Most remark­able about the sto­ries is the dis­tinct voice of each nar­ra­tor. Darch brave­ly faces the chal­lenge of writ­ing for a mix of native and non-native Eng­lish speak­ers, which more strong­ly defines the indi­vid­ual sto­ries. The lin­guis­tic com­plex­i­ty makes it eas­i­er for read­ers to enter each par­tic­u­lar sto­ry, with­out prov­ing to be a stum­bling block when mov­ing from one to anoth­er. Essen­tial­ly, Darch is suc­cess­ful in giv­ing read­ers sev­en dis­tinct sto­ries with well-defined char­ac­ters, which can hold their own indi­vid­u­al­ly or read togeth­er in an afternoon.

Darch’s writ­ing includes some dif­fi­cult top­ics, and it would be a mis­take to con­fuse the brevi­ty of the col­lec­tion with the atten­tion that it deserves. No sin­gle sto­ry will take more than min­utes to read, but it would be a good idea to stop and take a breath and an equal amount of time to reflect before div­ing into the next. There are plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ties for read­ers, espe­cial­ly those with roots in East­ern Europe or New York City, to relate the char­ac­ters to real peo­ple they know. Any messi­ness that appears around the edges serves to under­score their vital­i­ty as he show­cas­es the highs of the per­son­al cel­e­bra­tions and tri­umphs with lows of tragedy and defeat. Hope­ful­ly, Darch’s suc­cess will encour­age oth­er writ­ers and read­ers to engage with these themes with such thought­ful­ness and creativity.

Deb­o­rah Miller received rab­bini­cal ordi­na­tion at the Jew­ish The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary. She lives in New Jer­sey with her hus­band and daugh­ter, where she serves as a hos­pice chap­lain and teacher.

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