5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Nathan Englander is one of our great young American writers of fiction and his latest short story collection, "What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank", is one of the finest I have read lately, replete with ample instances of humor and tragedy. Although Englander's stories deal with the vicissitudes of fortune experienced by Jews in America and Israel, his stories are quite insightful explorations of human character whose universal themes of love, remorse and revenge should appeal to those ignorant of Jewish culture and traditions. The title story is a literary homage to one of Raymond Carver's best stories, recounting how two long-lost friends from childhood compare and contrast their lives one afternoon, culminating in the sharing of a pot joint between themselves and their husbands; it's a most humorous fictional exploration of two rather divergent segments of Jewish society and culture. "Sister Hills" is a most vivid evocation of the trials and tribulations faced by some Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, spanning four decades in a few pages. Most of the other stories touch on various aspects of Jewish life in the United States, though the final story in the collection, "Free Fruit for Young Widows", is a rather harrowing exploration of the emotionally wrecked soul of one Holocaust survivor still haunted by the demons of his youth despite enjoying years of relative tranquility in Israel. "Peep Show", one of the middle stories in this collection, is the one most unlike the others, a fantasy-inspired romp about an older Jewish man's experience in a Times Square peep show parlor that's uncannily reminiscent of some of noted American science fiction and fantasy writer Michael Swanwick's fantasy tales in the latter's "The Dog Said Bow Wow" short story collection. Without question, Englander's second story collection is a most memorable set of tales emphasizing his high literary art.