27 September 2009

Songs for the Butcher's Daughter; Peter Manseau

Songs for the Butcher's Daughter Songs for the Butcher's Daughter by Peter Manseau

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I hadn't intended to start this book (or finish it) during the High Holy Days, but much of this book is about bashert (fate) so let's just chalk it up to that, shall we?

Manseau's book Vows caught my attention at ALA years ago, and when I heard him at RUSA's Notable Tastes Breakfast this year I knew I needed to read it. The experience of Itsik/Isaac may very well have been the experience of my family: the escape from the tsar's army, the coming to America and living in an American shtetl, the changing from Jewish to American to who knows what.

To my knowledge, however, none of my family are the poet, failed or otherwise, that Itsik was. It is his journey, his willful choices to do/not do, see/not see that make this such an incredible read. At times I felt that he needed a Simon Cowell to say 'look, you'll never be a real poet', because clearly no one had ever said that. The lives he casually ruins and the obliviousness he has to those results is stunning and yet very familiar.

For those that are not Jewish, this is a great way to experience what it was like (albeit with a little fantasy - the self-delusional kind, not the dragons/castles kind - thrown in).

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