One can say that a benefit of having a book blog is that it provides an opportunity to receive copies of books in advance of their publication date; sometimes they are the final published edition, but most of the time they are an Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC), which disclaim on the cover that they are an uncorrected proof.
I say this because I read an ARC of A Replacement Life and I think it affected how I read and enjoyed (or, in this case, did not enjoy) the novel.
The premise of the novel is what interested me: Slava Gelman, a young aspiring reporter at a New Yorker-esque magazine, is asked by his grandfather to write his reparations claim to the German government for the suffering he incurred in the Soviet Union during World War II. The only problem is that the one who is eligible to receive the claim is actually Slava’s grandmother, and she just died. But being the dutiful grandson Slava does as he is asked and thinks that is the end. Until it’s not – Grandfather can’t help but brag about his grandson to others in the Russian-Jewish community in New York and before long Slava is asked to write claims for other refugees. Meanwhile he is also trying to build a relationship with a co-worker and a life for himself outside of the immigrant enclave he grew up in.
Again I’m basing my opinion only on the ARC, so I hope the author and his editor put some more work into the novel before final publication, but I found the story difficult to follow. Names and places weren’t consistent, and one of the chapters had a date six years ahead of any other chapter’s heading and it took me a while to figure out if I missed anything or if it was just an error. I also couldn’t get a good read on the intent of the story — is it about justice? The immigrant experience? Family ties? Maybe it was all of those things or none of them.
Sadly, not my cup of tea. But please do visit the other stops on this tour to read others’ opinions of A Replacement Life