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100 Pages A Day.... Stephanie's Book Reviews

A Cobbler's Tale

Pincus Potasznik is a Jewish cobbler living in Galicia.  In 1910, he receives an opportunity to travel to New York and set up a landsman society through his rabbi. Pincus decides to travel to New York making the decision to leave his pregnant wife Clara and their children at home and return for them later.  On the voyage to New York, Pincus does not fare well, but with the help of Jakob Adler, her makes it.  Jakob befriends Pincus and they decide to help one another after landing.  However, Jakob is running from an accidental murder of a Warsaw crime boss and has fallen right into the Jewish gangs of New York with boss Leo Gorpatsch.  On the boat over Pincus also has his palm read and receives a warning to bring his oldest son over within the year.  With the help of Jakob's connections and Pincus' skills, they set up a cobbler shop which also fronts as a way for Jakob to collect payment for Gorspatsch.  Soon Pincus is so busy with his shop and Landsman Society that he can't imagine finding time to go home to retrieve his family.  Back in Galicia, four years have passed.  Clara has had her baby and the children have grown.  She has kept her home and the cobbler shop running.  War has broken out near Galicia.  Pincus and Jakob plan to rescue the family while delivering a package overseas for Gorspatsch.  This opens up a whole new world of trouble for everyone, but also a world of hope.

A Cobbler's Tale combines an immigrant's story along with the suspense of the Jewish Mafia, World War I and mysticism. The story focuses on Pincus, but the point of view bounces between Pincus, Jakob and Clara giving a rounded to view to the immigrant experience and the time Clara was left in Galicia.  I was surprised at the reach of the Jewish Mafia.  Pincus and Jakob might not have survived their first years with same ease if it were not for Gorspatsch, although it would have saved them a world of heartache later.  PIncus' journey closely reflected that of a Jewish immigrant at the time and was loosely based on the author's grandparents.  The writing easily conveyed the living conditions and the feeling of community within the Lower East Side.   I felt a lot of sympathy for Clara's character, left to raise children, run a shop and survive in a war zone without knowing when Pincus would come back for her and the children.  Her strength and courage shone as Clara protected her children and helped her community.  Jakob's character was very interesting, always seeming to find trouble and falling in with the gangs, despite his friendship with Pincus, he tends to cause trouble for him over and over.  There was a layer of added suspense and mystery with PIncus' oldest son, Moshe and his talent of foreseeing grim events.  Known as a tzaddik, Moshe's talent can help his family, but is sought out by others.  Incorporating this mysticism creates an exciting and dangerous ending that pulls together Pincus' journey.  Overall, A Cobbler's Tale has a lot going on and offers an action packed historical journey of a Jewish immigrant with a touch of magic.

The Righteous One

Moshe is a cobbler in 1960's Manhattan.  He runs the same cobbler shop that his father began as a immigrant and where Moshe discovered that he was a tzaddik. In Judaism a tzaddik is a righteous person who is given powers by the Almighty.  Moshe had the ability to comfort people in times of great pain, but hasn't felt the connection for awhile.  Moshe's skills as a tzaddik are called upon one day by a man named Gray who works for city councilman Arnold Lieberman.  Arnold has come upon a rasha, the enemy of the tzaddik who uses their powers for evil.  The rasha is Solomon Blass who uses his prophetic dreams for his own benefit and has become part of New York City's crime ring.  As Solomon ages he seeks to put his son Myron in control by making him mayor.  In order to stop the rasha, Moshe begins training in the dream world in order to destroy the rasha's soul.  

The Righteous One is a follow up toA Cobbler's Tale.While it is not necessary to readA Cobbler's Tale first,  it does help to understand how Moshe's gift originated. The Righteous One creates an intersection between the organized crime of New York City in the 1960's and Jewish magical realism or the tzaddik, rasha and the dream world.  It did take me a little while to get into the story as the points of view bounced between Solomon and Myron and Moshe and Arnold.  I felt more grounded in the story as Moshe learned more about the dream world with Noa and Gray.  I would have loved to learn more about these two, especially Noa's lineage.  I also enjoyed the character development of Myron's character.  Through Myron, the effect of organized crime on New York City's infrastructure becomes apparent.  His character was also one who went through a lot of transformation and I wish his story wasn't cut short.  Moshe's revelations as a tzaddik and his abilities in the dream world were intriguing and I would have loved to spend some more time there.  

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