Hemon’s book tells two interesting stories in alternating chapters. One is based on a true event that took place on March 2, 1908 when Lazarus Averbach, a young Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe, knocked on the door of Chicago police chief George Shippy’s home to give him a letter and was shot dead. The police covered up this anti-Semitic act as a defense against the so-called anarchist assassin. The anarchists of the time made Lazarus out to be a martyr for their cause. Lazarus’ sister Olga was left wondering who her brother really was and we are left with no answer.
The other tale is about Brik, a young writer from Bosnia who was, like our author, Hemon, born in Sarajevo. Brik, who is out of work, is supported by his American physician wife. He is obsessed with Lazarus and takes his mysterious photographer friend Rora through Europe to trace Lazarus’ path. Brik has won a “Susie” grant to write and sets out to prove himself. Rora’s haunting black and white photos precede each chapter. The book blends fact and fiction in a way that makes it difficult to distinguish between the two. Hemon’s use of language is fascinating and his descriptions are raunchy and humorous in the present-day chapters. The tale of Lazarus’ fate is written beautifully while conveying Olga’s state of misery and tension.
Miriam Bradman Abrahams, mom, grandmom, avid reader, sometime writer, born in Havana, raised in Brooklyn, residing in Long Beach on Long Island. Longtime former One Region One Book chair and JBC liaison for Nassau Hadassah, currently presenting Incident at San Miguel with author AJ Sidransky who wrote the historical fiction based on her Cuban Jewish refugee family’s experiences during the revolution. Fluent in Spanish and Hebrew, certified hatha yoga instructor.