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The Houseguest: A Novel
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Catapult 2016
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It is the summer of 1941 and Abe Auer, a Russian immigrant and small–town junkyard owner, has become disenchanted with his life. So when his friend Max Hoffman, a local rabbi with a dark past, asks Abe to take in a European refugee, he agrees, unaware that the woman coming to live with him is a volatile and alluring actress named Ana Beidler. Ana regales the Auer family with tales of her lost stardom and charms and mystifies Abe with her glamour and unabashed sexuality, forcing him to confront his own desire as well as the ghost of his dead brother.As news filters out of Europe, American Jews struggle to make sense of the atrocities. Some want to bury their heads in the sand while others want to create a Jewish army that would fight Hitler and promote bold, wide–spread rescue initiatives. And when a popular Manhattan synagogue is burned to the ground, our characters begin to feel the drumbeat of war is marching ever closer to home.Set on the eve of America's involvement in World War II, The Houseguest examines a little–known aspect of the war and highlights the network of organizations seeking to help Jews abroad, just as masses of people seeking to escape Europe are turned away from American shores. It moves seamlessly from the Yiddish theaters of Second Avenue to the junkyards of Utica to the covert world of political activists, Jewish immigrants, and the stars and discontents of New York's Yiddish stage. Ultimately, The Houseguest is a moving story about identity, family, and the decisions that define who we will become.
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Street Date:
03/21/2016
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781619028005
ASIN:
B01CC321Q8
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Kim Brooks. (2016). The Houseguest: A Novel. Catapult.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Kim Brooks. 2016. The Houseguest: A Novel. Catapult.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Kim Brooks, The Houseguest: A Novel. Catapult, 2016.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Kim Brooks. The Houseguest: A Novel. Catapult, 2016. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Date Updated:
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        Kim Brooks is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she was a Teaching-Writing Fellow. She has earned fellowships from the Michener-Copernicus Foundation, the Corporation of Yaddo, and the Posen Foundation. Her fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, One Story, The Missouri Review and other journals, and her essays have appeared in Salon, Buzzfeed and New York Magazine. Her memoir Small Animals (Flatiron/Macmillan) will be published in 2017. She is the personal essays editor at Salon and lives in Chicago with her family.

      • name: Kim Brooks
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title
The Houseguest
fullDescription
It is the summer of 1941 and Abe Auer, a Russian immigrant and small–town junkyard owner, has become disenchanted with his life. So when his friend Max Hoffman, a local rabbi with a dark past, asks Abe to take in a European refugee, he agrees, unaware that the woman coming to live with him is a volatile and alluring actress named Ana Beidler. Ana regales the Auer family with tales of her lost stardom and charms and mystifies Abe with her glamour and unabashed sexuality, forcing him to confront his own desire as well as the ghost of his dead brother.
As news filters out of Europe, American Jews struggle to make sense of the atrocities. Some want to bury their heads in the sand while others want to create a Jewish army that would fight Hitler and promote bold, wide–spread rescue initiatives. And when a popular Manhattan synagogue is burned to the ground, our characters begin to feel the drumbeat of war is marching ever closer to home.
Set on the eve of America's involvement in World War II, The Houseguest examines a little–known aspect of the war and highlights the network of organizations seeking to help Jews abroad, just as masses of people seeking to escape Europe are turned away from American shores. It moves seamlessly from the Yiddish theaters of Second Avenue to the junkyards of Utica to the covert world of political activists, Jewish immigrants, and the stars and discontents of New York's Yiddish stage. Ultimately, The Houseguest is a moving story about identity, family, and the decisions that define who we will become.
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: ShoreNews Today
      • content: "[A] searing debut novel… The chain of events that follows is tense, emotional, and brilliantly evocative of a tragic time. This is a notable first novel with a voice all its own."
      • premium: False
      • source: Jewish Book Council
      • content: "Kim Brooks weaves a complex story that spans countries, states, and venues… This intricately told novel depicting the minutiae of domestic life and relationships, loss and grief, delves into the dark psychology of the characters and their layered and loaded interactions… The ending of the novel will reward readers with a twist that ties up loose ends but also presents more questions about these characters facing tough situations. Descriptive moments of levity depicting pre–World War II Jewish life in Europe and the Yiddish theater provide a window into a vibrant world and add another layer to this story that keeps the reader guessing until the end."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Jewniverse
      • content: "Kim Brooks' debut novel The Houseguest offers a refreshing perspective on an often overlooked facet of Holocaust: that of the American Jew… A dramatic tale without the melodrama, Brooks' debut is immersive and bold, and offers, by way of shining light on the domestic side of the war, a welcomed addition to the world of Holocaust literature."
      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        February 1, 2016
        It's 1941, and the Jews of Europe are disappearing to the East or fleeing on ships that can find no safe harbor. This sophisticated first novel considers the response by Americans Jews to the ever more insistent evidence of racial conflagration across the Atlantic. An inevitable cloud of despair hangs over this timely, psychologically questing debut, since the reader, like many of the book's characters, already knows things will not end well. Brooks uses a handful of figures to express various responses of American Jews to the terrible news filtering out of Europe and the national reluctance to intervene. In Manhattan, firebrand Shmuel Spiro wants to raise a Jewish army to fight the Nazis; in upstate Utica, otherworldly rabbi Max Hoffman understands the hypocrisy behind America's refugee visa quotas and how high the bureaucratic bar is set; and Utica junkyard owner Abe Auer, a first-generation immigrant himself, remains haunted by his role in his Russian family's history. While opposing factions argue and disagree at conferences about how to rescue Hitler's victims, many middle-class Jews like Abe's wife and daughter find their comfortable lifestyles largely undisrupted. Then a refugee arrives, an atypical one--glamorous, unsettling Yiddish actress Ana Beidler. Mature in tone and unhurried in pace, Brooks' novel is at its best in its portraits of unhappy men confronted by cataclysmic events in the world and unexpressed longings at home. Its dramatic fulcrum, however, is the book's weakness. Ana, blessed with irresistible allure and a burned-out attitude, is a more familiar character--the disruptive seductress--than the troubled men in Utica and New York. Her actions may be central to the novel's development, yet it's a more compelling and original book in the scenes without her. Brooks offers an imperfect but insightful depiction of the choices individuals make in unbearable times.

        COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from March 15, 2016
        Brooks' debut novel is like taking a high-speed rail journey: scenery and images slip by, impressions of a landscape not seen fully until the end. A complex plot with parallel story lines follows three Jewish American families during WWII as each person tries to make sense of the Holocaust in Europe, and to help. The European refugee staying with the Auer family in Utica is the houseguest in the story, and she's an unexpectedly challenging person to hostan eccentric, sensual actress who sleeps late, smokes in her messy room, and wanders unclothed at night. Max, the rabbi, gets involved in Shmuel's vision of a Jewish army but is caught by a sense of futility and his own pain, while Shmuel's fundraising efforts reap community scorn. And, yet, this is not a depressing book. Every image, metaphor, and character is carefully crafted to build a portrait of a vibrant culture and to illustrate that the ultimate inhumanity is ignoring people; the highest good is caring. With the emotional depth and lyricism of Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated (2002), and the flawed personalities and lavish imagery of Dara Horn's The World to Come (2006), this witty, moving, and literary paean to a people bursts with the depth and magic of a Chagall painting.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2016, American Library Association.)

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shortDescription
It is the summer of 1941 and Abe Auer, a Russian immigrant and small–town junkyard owner, has become disenchanted with his life. So when his friend Max Hoffman, a local rabbi with a dark past, asks Abe to take in a European refugee, he agrees, unaware that the woman coming to live with him is a volatile and alluring actress named Ana Beidler. Ana regales the Auer family with tales of her lost stardom and charms and mystifies Abe with her glamour and unabashed sexuality, forcing him to confront his own desire as well as the ghost of his dead brother.
As news filters out of Europe, American Jews struggle to make sense of the atrocities. Some want to bury their heads in the sand while others want to create a Jewish army that would fight Hitler and promote bold, wide–spread rescue initiatives. And when a popular Manhattan synagogue is burned to the ground, our characters begin to feel the drumbeat of war is marching ever closer to home.
Set on the eve of America's...
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