the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘Judaism

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 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 The two families involved in the stories are Jewish, there are constant cultural and religious references, historical references, faded numbers on arms.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).  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 how 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 is 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.

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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.