Love and Shame and Love

  • Review
By – December 12, 2011

Instead of a bar mitz­vah Alexan­der Pop­per, hence­forth known as Pop­per, has, as a cer­tain group of young men do, the tra­di­tion­al chat” with Judge Abra­ham Lin­coln Marovitz, long time Chica­go insid­er. At the con­clu­sion of their meet­ing, when the judge asks Pop­per about Moses and the end of his life, Pop­per gives the much rehearsed, per­haps con­tro­ver­sial, but expect­ed answer, Moses died alone. No fam­i­ly, no friends. Nobody even knows exact­ly where he is buried. An angry God isn’t much of a friend, Your Hon­or, and every­body needs friends.” Thus begins the tale of three gen­er­a­tions of the Pop­per fam­i­ly– their lives, their loves, and their shames. Orner’s nov­el is also a sto­ry of Chica­go– the lake, the weath­er, and its long­stand­ing polit­i­cal profile.

Popper’s com­ing of age is all wrapped up with the dilem­ma of whom to keep as friends” and whom to leave behind. As each fam­i­ly member’s sto­ry grows more com­pli­cat­ed, it is clear that no one is all good and no one is all bad. While we know this, Popper’s emo­tion­al jour­ney is worth taking.

Peter Orner employs great craft in explor­ing the intri­ca­cies of love and fam­i­ly, inter-gen­er­a­tional his­to­ries and loy­al­ties. Trav­el­ing back and forth in time we try to assem­ble the jig­saw of the Pop­pers and the glue that holds them togeth­er. We are at once relat­ing to the famil­iar twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry social and polit­i­cal mores and at the same time into the new cen­tu­ry, and curi­ous about what the future may or may not hold for this very famil­iar demographic.

Pen­ny Metsch, MLS, for­mer­ly a school librar­i­an on Long Island and in New York City, now focus­es on ear­ly lit­er­a­cy pro­grams in Hobo­ken, NJ.

Discussion Questions