The Enter­tain­er and the Dybbuk

Sid Fleis­chman
  • Review
By – October 6, 2011

One night, the Great Fred­die, a so-so Amer­i­can ven­tril­o­quist scrap­ing out a liv­ing in post-war Europe, is pos­sessed by a dyb­buk — A spir­it. With tsuris.” At first, Fred­die, who isn’t even Jew­ish, wants to get rid of the dyb­buk. But as the sto­ry pro­gress­es, it becomes clear that both of them can help each oth­er. Avram Amos, the dyb­buk, was a 12-year-old boy killed in the Holo­caust. He wants revenge against the Nazi who killed him and his sis­ter, along with numer­ous oth­er chil­dren. When Avram pos­sess­es the body of the Great Fred­die, Fred­die real­izes how he can use that to his advan­tage and becomes famous as the most gift­ed ven­tril­o­quist in Europe. The dyb­buk, now in the form of a ventriloquist’s dum­my, makes the read­er cheer and laugh. He also makes the read­er squirm. At the height of Freddie’s rise to fame, Avram’s moti­va­tion is clear. He will use the stage to hunt down his own murderer. 

But the nov­el is not dour. Despite its seri­ous set­ting and momen­tum, Fred­die and the dyb­buk fight and joke like broth­ers. Fleis­chman uses humor to break up the ten­sion stem­ming from the dybbuk’s seri­ous mis­sion. Fred­die wants fame, and the dyb­buk can help him get it. He wants love, and the dyb­buk inter­feres. Both char­ac­ters are com­plex and real. Avram’s bar mitz­vah, with Fred­die as his stand in, is remark­ably touching. 

The sur­pris­ing end­ing is dar­ing and mem­o­rable. This short book gives us sat­is­fy­ing revenge with­out vio­lence. Fleischman’s coura­geous take on the Holo­caust is full of con­crete details that invoke heart and humor. Rec­om­mend­ed for rea‘ders age 9 – 14

Sarah Aron­son holds an MFA in Writ­ing for Chil­dren and Young Adults from Ver­mont Col­lege. She is a full time writer and has recent­ly pub­lished her first nov­el, Head Case (Roar­ing Brook) for young adults. Sara blogs every Thurs­day for the Lilith blog.

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