Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

I decided a couple weeks ago to put down the Janet Evanovich books (good though they are) and pick up The History of Love at the recommendation of the Asheville book group (where I still consider myself a member, even though I live 3 hours away).

The story centers around two individuals in NYC - an elderly man, Leo Gursky, who is a Holocaust survivor and is limping through what may be the last days of his life; and Alma, a young teenager who is searching for her identity in the aftermath of losing her beloved father at a young age. The search for life and meaning by both Leo and Alma occurs through a little known book, The History of Love, and the mystery that surrounds it. Krauss writes beautifully, and the glimpses we see of the History of Love manuscript make me want to read that as well (if only it existed).

The first two pages left me depressed, and then I realized Krauss had the gift of combining the hysterical with the poignant and the overwhelming. Leo's desire not to die unnoticed leads him to create scenes whenever he goes out - I could easily imagine him purchasing and then intentionally spilling coffee (in dramatic fashion) so that he would be remembered. Alma's desire to distance herself from her mother and a religion obsessed younger brother also left me laughing many times. Krauss took what could have been simply another search for meaning, and filled it with true life moments that made it real.

The book is wonderfully written. It is heart-wrenching, heart-warming, funny, sad, endearing, and ultimately fulfilling. My grade - definitely A.

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