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The Yiddish Policemen's Union [Paperback]

Michael Chabon
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Most helpful customer reviews
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Paths to Redemption Feb. 10 2008
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
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. This recent novel is brilliant example of how a writer can place a seemingly ordinary, everyday person like Landsman, a lapsed Jew, who likes his job as a detective but has just come through a bitter divorce, in the most incongruent of environments, a Hassidic community in Alaska called Sitka. As this group of faithful and focussed Jews awaits the return of the Messiah from on frigid top of the world, theirs is an existence of fastidiously keeping the law and practicing the old customs in readiness for the big event. Chabon includes a host of Hassidic and Yiddish customs in his story to make the point that Sitka is a very parochial Jewish homeland. It is built on orthodox principles for the exclusive accommodation of the Jewish remnant that will survive the Tribulation, which had apparently already happened with the Holocaust and the fictional collapse of Israel in 1948. Outsiders have managed to creep in and take up residence. Into this setting comes Landsman on a mission to solve a double murder involving an old chess master named Lasker and his sister Naomi. To complicate matters, Landsman still works under his ex-wife, who is the chief detective for the territory. His compulsion will force him to violate many cultural boundaries and break many taboos in his zigzagging search for the culprits. Chabon uses the many challenges facing Landsman as opportunities to instruct his reader on the peculiarities of custom and where they possibly lead. As Landsman closes in on his quarry, the reader is treated to some of the darker side of this supposedly monotheistic community awaiting the millennium. Read more ›
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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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His best yet July 11 2007
By C.W.
For me, reading this was something like reading a book by Roth (any of his) and something by Chandler (think, his mysteries). The book is definitely a hybrid and starts out similiar to Roth's "The Plot Against America." I guess the Chander slash mystery part explains itself. Chabon, who is known to most for his award-winning "The Amazing Adventures," doesn't disappoint in this quirky mystery. BUT, you don't have to be Jewish to understand or appreciate this work. Set in various setting, including Alaska ("The Frozen Chosen") this book never lets up its pace and you'll be flipping those pages faster than you can say "Another Pulitzer-Prize." A mixture of black humor and angst, it is also reminniscent of books such as Foer's "Everything is Illuminated," or McCrae's "Bark of the Dogwood," though the latter is set in the South and has nothing to do with Jewishness.

For those who might possibly be scared off by the subject matter, let me assure you, the writing is first-rate and accessible to anyone with a brain. Must also recommend to you his first book: THE AMAZING ADVENTURES and the novel MIDDLESEX by Eugenides.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An artist of a writer.
If you enjoy reading a book with fanciful turns of phrase rather than point blank, direct text, then you'll enjoy reading The Yiddish Policemen's Union yet I was left feeling that... Read more
Published 14 days ago by Helena Savolainen
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
Loved the story, the language and the characters
Published 1 month ago by TK
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, the plot is strange and forced
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. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Aggie G
5.0 out of 5 stars Mishegas Shtick
"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. Read more
Published on July 18 2012 by Dave_42
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 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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