The Frumkiss Fam­i­ly Business

  • Review
By – August 31, 2011

This rol­lick­ing fam­i­ly his­to­ry fea­tures the screw­ball prog­e­ny of Elyokim Fak­tor, Pol­ish refugee and tex­tile heir turned most­ly beloved Cana­di­an children’s tele­vi­sion celebri­ty. The year is 2008 and Faktor’s spoiled, shift­less grand­chil­dren are cen­tered on their own neu­roses. Then Fak­tor, who spent his 102 years cul­ti­vat­ing a stud­ied rep­u­ta­tion for trou­ble­mak­ing, drops a posthu­mous bomb, leav­ing the Gen­er­a­tion X trio to ques­tion their iden­ti­ties and cope in very human ways.

Earl Frumkiss, Faktor’s docile son-in-law who estab­lish­es his own for­tune as king of a chain of podi­a­try clin­ics, is not the star of the epony­mous saga but serves as the con­duit between gen­er­a­tions. Wex’s sharp, smart nov­el explores what con­sti­tutes a Jew in mod­ern Toron­to and how a wan­ing lan­guage, Yid­dish, both divides and unites a fam­i­ly, a neigh­bor­hood, and a religion. 

Here you’ll rec­og­nize your own fam­i­ly, only rich­er and cra­zier. In the Frumkiss world, a beau­ti­ful bul­ly is exiled to a board­ing school for the blind. An over­weight come­di­an acci­den­tal­ly rous­es a crank caller to mur­der a neigh­bor. And an insect-lov­ing hock­ey mom is trapped in a mar­riage with a man who like­ly loves oth­er men. The com­mon denom­i­na­tor— they’re all the descen­dants of Elyokim Fak­tor and Earl Frumkiss.

Read Michael Wex’s Posts for the Vis­it­ing Scribe

Birth of A Fam­i­ly Busi­ness

Being the Kvetch Guy

Old and Grey and Only in the Way

Discussion Questions