Stories In The Dark
by Barry Pain
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From Publishers Weekly
Nayman's debut collection sees the children of Holocaust victims and participants coming to terms with family secrets. In "The House on Kronenstrasse," a middle-aged New Yorker is drawn to her childhood home in Heidelberg, where she discovers a devastating secret about who she is. In "The Porcelain Monkey," a young woman's discovery of a dreidel in a keepsake box prompts her father, who was a German soldier during WWII, to tell her about its origin; the truth inspires her to become an Orthodox Jew. In "The Lamp," a daughter who has never learned that she is the product of a Nazi rape makes peace with the fact that she will never know her mother's past: "Perhaps," she muses, "there are graves that must be dug if the living are to go on living." And in the novella "Dark Urgings of the Blood," a psychiatrist is haunted by a patient whose history eerily parallels her own. Nayman, a clinical psychologist, writes in a didactic tone that makes these stories read like earnest moral essays on already heavily covered themes. Still, her edifying lessons will appeal to readers looking for insight on the tortured choices imposed by Nazism. (Oct.)
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"A haunting excursion into the past...Each story is a literary page-turner with a classic O. Henry twist."
-- The Atlantic Monthly
"The beautiful and deftly plotted stories in Awake in the Dark are like nothing out there."
"I'm shaken by Shira Nayman's brilliant and mystical stories. She writes with wisdom and courage."
-- Ursula Hegi, author of The Worst Thing I've Done and Stones from the River
"Awake in the Dark quietly and forcefully insists that despite every wish to remain asleep, comforted by unconsciousness, we are all much better served by opening our eyes to the truth."
-- San Francisco Chronicle
"Brave and bracing...Awake in the Dark is plotted in that perfect way that stops our breath even as our brain hums with pleasure."
-- The Plain Dealer
Bold and deeply affecting, Awake in the Dark is a provocative and haunting work of fiction about who we are and how we are formed by history. These luminous stories portray the contemporary lives of the children of Holocaust victims and perpetrators as they struggle with the legacy of their parents -- their questions of identity, family, and faith. In "The House on Kronen-strasse," a woman returns to Germany to find her childhood home; in "The Porcelain Monkey," the shocking origins of an Orthodox Jewish woman's faith are revealed; in "The Lamp," the harrowing experiences of a young woman leave her with the perfect daughter and a strange light; and in "Dark Urgings of the Blood," a patient is convinced that she shares a disturbing history with her psychiatrist.
Rendered in powerful, unaffected prose, Awake in the Dark is an illuminating and startling book about the disguises we don, the secrets we keep, and the consequences of our silences.
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