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The irony is heightened by the performance of Tony Award-winning actor Jefferson Mays, whose mannered, clipped delivery keeps events largely at arm's length (though paradoxically this treatment tends to reinforce the horror of the violent passages, where Hemon seems determined to make the reader viscerally experience the brutality of power used to oppress).
The story is based on the true case of the 1908 murder of a recently-arrived Jewish immigrant, Lazarus Averbuch, at the hands of Chicago's chief of police. Another imagined narrative is that of Sarajevo-born struggling author Bric and his grant-funded journey from Chicago through East Europe to trace the story of Averbuch in reverse. It is a strength of Hemon's writing that both voices the heartbroken, outcast sister in 1908 and the somewhat self-absorbed writer of a century later ring true, as do the descriptions of turn-of-the-century Chicago and the more dilapidated corners of modern Chernivtsi. Mays manages to make the transition between both time periods almost imperceptibly, which compliments the tale's meshing of the past and present.
But it is in Bric's narrative that the force of Hemon's tale comes through: the Lazarus project is about resurrection in more ways than one. As Lazarus' grieving sister must investigate her brother's past to make sense of his murder, Bric's journey unearths not only the bloody history of Europe's Jewish population the pogrom of Kishinev, Chicago's hostility towards immigrants but his own sense of self, his own identity as a man displaced from his country of birth and resituated in a depersonalizing western society. This tale is as much a story of belonging as a study of cultural rejection. Dafydd Phillips
Now, in the twenty-first century, a young writer in Chicago, Brik, also from Eastern Europe, becomes obsessed with Lazarus's story-what really happened, and why? In order to understand Averbuch, Brik and his friend Rora-who overflows with stories of his life as a Sarajevo war photographer-retrace Averbuch's path across Eastern Europe, through a history of pogroms and poverty, and through a present-day landscape of cheap mafiosi and cheaper prostitutes. The stories of Averbuch and Brik become inextricably entwined, augmented by the photographs that Rora takes on their journey, creating a truly original, provocative, and entertaining novel that will confirm Hemon once and for all as one of the most dynamic and essential literary voices of our time.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Chelsea Adams on 04-02-17
Worth Listening to, but Purchase a Paper Copy
Who was your favorite character and why?
Rora is wonderfully bright and is the driving force behind the narrative.
Any additional comments?
The reader does a really good job at bringing the characters to life. The story itself is intriguing, and keeps you engaged. Having the book to look at the photographs while you follow along is well worth the purchase price, as the photographs are meant to be part of the book.