Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander is a dark novel. It is at times an offensive novel. Yet I really enjoyed it.
The premise: Solomon Kugel, his wife, and their young son, move into an old farmhouse in what sounds like upstate New York (or somewhere in New England). The home is a bit more than they can afford, so they intend to take in tenants, but one of the rooms is used by Solomon’s mother, a woman who claims to be a victim of the Holocaust despite being born in the US in 1945. The area to which they have moved has been the target of several arson attacks, so when Solomon hears some tapping in the vents one night he investigates, and it takes him up to the attic where he encounters an old woman who says she is Anne Frank, and who has apparently been living in the attic for quite some time and has no intention of leaving until she finishes her book.
See where the dark and the offensive may come in?
Poor Solomon has to fight himself over his conflicting duties — to his wife and son who are his future, to his mother who is his past, and to Anne Frank (how would it look if a Jew threw Anne Frank out of his house?). He is hopeful that he can make everyone happy, but the “wisdom” of his off-camera therapist Professor Jove, makes anyone question if that is ever possible:
… the greatest cause of anguish and hatred and sadness and death, was neither disease nor race nor religion. It was hope.
I definitely don’t think this book is for everyone but with the right group of people (read: VERY open-minded) I think this would be a great book for discussion. It pushes boundaries but it also makes you think, and it is a pretty entertaining story.
I have had this book since not long after it was released but it wasn’t until I saw Jackie from Farm Lane Books and Judith from Leeswammes (reviewed on her Dutch blog) discuss on Twitter how much they enjoyed it that I pulled it to the top of the pile. And I’m glad they gave me the extra push!