★★★★★ In this engrossing collection of eleven short stories, author and journalist Peter Sichrovsky gives readers a handful of love stories to ponder over. His newest work, Verklempt, explores the identity of many Jewish characters, most of who are caught up in the throes of passion, attraction, disappointment, uncertainty, danger, or bewilderment. The stories are connected in a way that the same kind of overwhelming emotion is ever present throughout the stories’ pages. While the narratives all offer something different, the author’s background and heritage is a noticeable influence on his character’s identities. Issues like The Holocaust and anti-Semitism are tackled, as are current and recent political issues. In the story “Prague” a young Jewish boy’s new romance is threatened by chaos in the city, while in “The Sirens” a family is faced with the terror of staying together during an attack on their homeland. A husband tries to figure out what to do with his failing marriage in “The Love Schnorrer,” while in “The Holiday” three different families try to have an enjoyable time together on a vacation to Greece.
What makes these stories so entertaining and engaging is the fact that the characters in each of the stories are the kind of people you’ve met before. They have to face relatable issues like dealing with the complications of a new love, getting older, struggling to keep their families together, and coping with the boredom that often comes from typical every day life. Even though most of the characters have a strong Jewish connection, they are different ages, emerging from different backgrounds and histories, while showing their true colors in unique and unexpected ways. The author succeeds at painting realistic and raw human emotion, giving insight into the lives of characters who are fully formed, every word on the page in each story holding an immense amount of weight.
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