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The Yiddish Policemen's Union [Paperback]

Michael Chabon
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Innovative setting; average story April 13 2009
This novel takes place in Sitka, a temporary Jewish settlement located in Alaska, at the verge of being re-integrated to the USA after 60 years of independence and prosperity. Since there is a quota of Jews that will be naturalized as American citizens after the "Reversion" of Sitka, most of its Jewish population is facing the prospect of deportation. And because the state of Israel was destroyed 1948 only tree months after it was founded, there does not seem to be any future for the Jews of Sitka.

The strength of this novel definitely lies in its setting, which presents to the reader an alternate version of the events that have followed the end of WWII. This very original setting is presented in the course of a police investigation on what at first appears to be a casual case of a murder of a drug addict. The novel also introduces vocabulary that is unique to Sitka Jews, which contributes to the reader's immersion in this unique setting although it does take time to get familiar with it. Although I am quite enthusiastic about the setting of the novel, I can't say that the story itself blew me away. You will find in this story many common stereotypes for police investigators. With all the praises from critics this novel is showing on its cover, I must admit I expected more story-wise.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Seldom will you have an opportunity to read a book that offers so much fine writing, imaginative fancy dropped in lightly to expand your mind, wit, and examples of how we are our own worst enemy by assuming we know what's going on rather than getting the facts. If you are Jewish and know Yiddish, you'll have the extra benefit of many good-humored, self-directed jokes: In places, you'll think you've stepped into a Neil Simon comedy. And there are lots of nods to fine literature throughout the book to keep the serious reader entertained.

To give this book a conventional book review does Mr. Chabon a disservice. How can I best summarize The Yiddish Policemen's Union? Expect the wildly unexpected.

Most novels try to fit tightly into a genre. By following certain conventions, readers have an easier time following what's going on and are soon basking in reflected pleasure from other books they've read in the genre. If you mash together genres instead as Mr. Chabon has done, the results can be chaotic, humorous, and revealing about the flaws in the genres. This book combines so many genres that you'll probably find yourself losing track of how many are referenced in one place or other.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union isn't one of those books that you should read quickly. You should savor each conversational exchange, each scene, and each historical, social, cultural or biblical reference as you might savor a fine wine. Sip slowly, stop, and experience as many flavors as you can.

I have two warnings however.

If you are looking for a book that's exactly like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, you've been misinformed. The same author is involved, but the two books are quite different.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, the plot is strange and forced Aug. 23 2013
By Aggie G
I had high hopes for this book as Chabon's Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is one of my favourite novels of all time. I enjoyed the language and style of this book and really liked the first half. I thought it was imaginative and interesting. However, once the plot twists were introduced I found it unbelievable and forced. The unveiling of the mystery was disappointing. It seemed exaggerated and really wasn't believable, sadly.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mishegas Shtick July 18 2012
By Dave_42 TOP 500 REVIEWER
"The Yiddish Policemen's Union" by Michael Chabon, was originally published on May 1st 2007. The story is set in an alternate reality, where the U.S. agreed to implement the Slattery report, which provisioned land in Alaska as a temporary refuge for European Jews in 1940. That decision led to the Sitka settlement in 1941 (in the story), and Israel was destroyed in 1948, but the story itself takes place in a modern day world resulting from that history. There are other significant historical changes hinted at in the story as well, but they are not important to the overall plot. The other key factor is that the temporary refuge is about to end, after a 60-year period, and it appears that it will not be extended.

The story itself is a detective story, and the hero is Meyer Landsman, a homicide detective, who is investigating the murder of an unknown man (initially) who was known as a chess player. Landsman's partner is half-Tlingit (Alaskan native) half-Jewish man named Berko Shemets. Landsman's ex-wife (Bino) is promoted to be his commanding officer, and the interesting character list goes on and on from there. Chabon creates wonderful characters that are not just two-dimensional figures and each is a distinctive character to the reader. In addition, the entire world is textured and contributes greatly to pulling the reader into the world he has created.

This book received a number of awards, including the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel, the Locus Award for Best SF Novel, and the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for Best Novel. It was also considered for the British Science Fiction Association and the Edgar Allan Poe Awards for Best Novel.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars "[W]hen I have formed the sounds
said the words out loud those who had assumed Yiddish was a language of the past only, suddenly felt it had been revived. . . . Read more
Published on March 30 2011 by Leonard Fleisig
5.0 out of 5 stars An utter surprise
I heard a lot about this work and about Micheal Chabon, but I honestly didn't know what to think. On a lark, I decided to give this book a shot and bought it. Read more
Published on June 16 2009 by T. Hore
1.0 out of 5 stars Know Yiddish it Will Help
The story revolves around the idea that part of Alaska has been ceded to the dispossessed Jews after WWII on the stipulation that during the next sixty years they have to find a... Read more
Published on Oct. 3 2008 by Toni Osborne
5.0 out of 5 stars The Paths to Redemption
I've started to take an interest in some of Chabon's works as to how he develops and equips the protagonist to both survive and flourish in outrageously hostile environments. Read more
Published on Feb. 10 2008 by Ian Gordon Malcomson
5.0 out of 5 stars His best yet
For me, reading this was something like reading a book by Roth (any of his) and something by Chandler (think, his mysteries). Read more
Published on July 11 2007 by C.W.
5.0 out of 5 stars Imagine Sitka Alaska as Tel Aviv?
This is simply too good a book to capture or appreciate in a review. It's written on so many levels: police mystery, political and religious intrigue, human interest, alternative... Read more
Published on July 9 2007 by Road King
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