the Little Red Reviewer

The History of Soul 2065 by Barbara Krasnoff

Posted on: May 9, 2019

The History of Soul 2065 by Barbara Krasnoff

available June 2019

where I got it: Received advanced review copy (Thanks!)

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I’m gonna give you the bookends first, and then sorta kinda fill in the middle, ok?

 

My first thought about this book was “what’s up with that title? It makes no sense!”

 

My last thought when I was finishing the book was “oh, now I get it! The title is makes sense now!”, and then a few pages later “oh.Now I really get it. Oh my.”  An unplanned coincidence that I read that last story on the day before Passover.

 

Ok, now for all the tasty middle bits:

 

The History of Soul 2065 is a mosaic novel.  What’s a mosaic novel you ask? Mosaic novels are strange and wonderful volumes that  usually involve interconnected short stories or vignettes, they can have location and time-jumps, a character who is a child in one story may be a grandparent in another, someone who seems so important in one story may never show up again. Like most mosaic novels, many of the stores in The History of Soul 2065 appeared previously in other magazines and anthologies (such as Mythic Delirium magazine, Clockwork Phoenix, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Weird Tales, and Apex Magazine, among others), with a handful that were original to this novel. Some older stories have been slightly reworked to better fit into the chronology.

 

Reading The History of Soul 2065 is like looking through a photo album – and when you touch someone’s photo, you get pulled into what they were going through at the moment the photo was taken.  Maybe when that photo was taken they were happy, maybe they were sad, maybe they were missing someone, maybe they had just helped someone. Krasnoff gilds the stories with magical realism, superstitions, and a few things you’ve just got to take on faith, and while she presents the family’s story in sort of chronological order in a healthy mix of longer stories and flash fiction length pieces,  what she’s actually doing is telling a far more important story, and magically telling it backwards.

 

And yes, if you didn’t pick up in from the cover art, this is a very Jewish book. The two families involved in the stories are Jewish, there are constant cultural and religious references, historical references, faded numbers on arms. There are references to specific Jewish prayers, and these things are not explained in the text.  As a Jew, I knew what they meant, non-Jews may not get the references (and that’s OK! That’s what Google is for). I want to buy a copy of this book for my synagogue’s library. If you’ve never met someone who is Jewish, I can’t think of a better introduction to the Jewish culture than this book.

 

Many of my favorite stories were the ones that made my cry.  Is that weird? Here are a few of my favorites, only some of which made me cry:

 

I came across “Sabbath Wine” in a Clockwork Phoenix anthology, are stories this beautiful supposed to make you cry so much? I was overjoyed to see that story as one of the openers in this novel, that I read it, cried a ton, and then I was trying to explain the plot of the story to my husband and was just a cry-y, snotty mess.  It’s a story of two kids who become unlikely friends, and the friendship that their fathers forge. It’s a harsh reminder of fractured Jewish communities can become, how cruel we can be to each other, and the unexpected oddness of finding you have something in common with a stranger.

 

“Hearts and Minds” didn’t make me cry, but it could have.  And we get introduced to Ben! I have such a soft spot for him, but what’s he doing in this story, playing cards with all these old people? If you ever want to know what my favorite kind of story telling twist is, it’s the one at the end of this story.

Taking place in a theater, “In The Gingerbread House” has a strong hit of magical realism (and isn’t a theater exactly where magical realism should occur??), and a hint of what’s to come.  Isabeau is given a completely non-magical charm as a distraction. Her brother tells her if she listens closely, it will tell her stories. Is it theater? Is it magic? Is a little girl playing a game of pretend?  But the stories the charm tells her, these are the things that will save her life.

 

You need to read these in order, so when you get to “Under The Bay Court Tree”, you’ll have heard of Ben, but you won’t quite know who he is yet. So call this an edge-of-Ben story maybe?  Carlos has moved to a new apartment neighborhood, it seems like him moving to this neighborhood was just meant to be! He’s slowly getting to know the neighbors, and the guy who lives next to him is especially obnoxious. And there is this group of older ladies who seem really odd  . . .

 

“Escape Route”  is a flash fiction piece, and what I love about flash fiction is that by design the characters have to make decisions really fast. Julie has been waiting her entire life for the right moment, will she know it when it comes along?  Maybe it’s not the exact moment that’s important, what’s important is how much you need it to happen, and need it to happen right now.

 

Does Rachel think her mom and aunt are witches?  In “Sofia’s Legacy” they give Rachel an uncanny experience that goes far beyond magical realism and fantasy.  By the time you get to this story, different families are being pulled towards one another. Rachel is seeing the larger picture, the overarching storyline.  But she’s a tree, she can’t see the forest.

 

The History of Soul 2065 is  so many things. It’s a journey through the histories and dreams of two families, it’s a magical realism way of finding hope when you feel lost, it’s historical fantasy, it’s far future science fiction. Characters are gently soothed, while their parents face inescapable harshness and pain.  As a whole, it feels meta, in the wibbly wobbly timey wimey way that Krasnoff plays with chronology, having time and actions go both forward and backward, and affecting characters in the past and the future.

 

If you enjoy quiet passionate stories that reward the reader, this book is for you.  I received and advanced reading copy, and was reading this while I was getting ready for Passover. I’d like selections of this book to become an annual Passover tradition for me. Maybe one year I’ll just read Sofia stories, or just read Ben stories, and I’ll time it right so that I’m reading that very last, very important story, the night of the Seder.

 

You can read a lot of these stories online, but I actually don’t recommend doing so until after you’ve read The History of Soul 2065.  If you read them online, first of all you won’t get all of them, and second of all you won’t get them in the right chronology, and then magic of the whole just won’t be there.   But, after you’ve read this book, and given it to a friend to read and insisted that it’s such a good book that they keep it, those online versions will be there waiting for you. (or maybe you should just get two copies? One for you and one for your friend)

 

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5 Responses to "The History of Soul 2065 by Barbara Krasnoff"

Wow. OK, two copies? Got it. 🙂
A mosaic novel? I didn’t know that was the term for it, but I’ve just read one and was thinking it’d be a book you’d enjoy while I was reading it. This one sounds amazing. I’ll order it (and a copy for my friend!) asap. Awesome review! 😀

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ooh, which one did you read?

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Folk by Zoe Gilbert – it’s a slim little volume of 15 interconnected stories, but wow! It’s awesome! (I’ve just posted thoughts on it today). 🙂

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[…] Andrea Johnson, aka Little Red Reviewer, has similarly kind and enthusiastic sentiments to share on her book review blog: […]

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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