In Yom Kippur in Amsterdam, Maxim Shrayer explores the complex and often difficult adjustments of Russian-Jewish immigrants to American life. Shrayer himself was born in Moscow in 1967 and spent nine years as a refusenik before emigrating to the United States in 1987.
In the title story, Russian-born Jake Glaz flees his home in Baltimore after a painful break-up with a Catholic girlfriend who is unable to convert to Judaism. After a restorative week on the Riviera, he finds himself in the seedy, red-light alleyways of Amsterdam just hours before the eve of Yom Kippur.
In “Sonatchka,” two old friends reunite in suburban Connecticut and reminisce about their early lives in Moscow. As the day wanes, painful truths emerge about their current circumstance.
“The Afterlove,” set entirely in Russia, is a bittersweet coming-of-age tale. Set first at a glittering dinner party of the Moscow intelligentsia in the early 1980’s, it travels back in time to 1945. Young Pavel Lidin and Fyodor Shtock are selected to spend a summer at an experimental government-run post-World War II summer camp. Throughout, the writing is soulful, evocative, and deeply detailed.
Maxim Shrayer, chairman of the department of Slavic and Eastern Languages at Boston College, has published a memoir, Waiting for America, and several books on Jewish-Russian literature.