Center stage in Tova Reich’s sharp, satirical novel is Maurice Messer, the opportunistic head of “Holocaust Connections, Inc.,” a consulting group that nets millions capitalizing on the Holocaust brand. The action of the novel kicks off on a tour of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, where Maurice must balance moneymaking endeavors with certain personal matters: his son’s ineptitude in business for one, his granddaughter’s Christian conversion for another. The setting later moves to the site of a different memorial, the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., where Maurice’s wheeling and dealing in the sympathy game comes back to haunt him.
What colors this story is not only a Messer family squabble, but a worldwide struggle to attain “victim royalty” — a quest that leaves no cultural group or political affiliation safe from Reich’s biting wit. The third-person perspective rotates point-ofview throughout, treating the reader to a cast of eclectic characters, united in their attempts to co-opt the suffering of the Jews. We meet for instance, Tommy Messiah, a peddler of fake Nazi memorabilia, and Jake Gilguli, a Buddhist new-age TV star who proclaims to have died at Auschwitz in a former life. The author’s lively and brutally honest depictions provide us with unforgettable guides through this farcical yet eerily familiar world.