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‘Hope: A Tragedy’ by Shalom Auslander: B (78%) – Aggregate Book Review

‘Hope: A Tragedy’ by Shalom Auslander

B

Above Average (78%)
Summary of the Reviews:
A comedy about genocide (yes, you just read that), most of the reviewers really liked the humor and thought it was combined with thought-provoking philosophical themes really well. The main complaint was about poor characterization.
ISBN: 978-1594488382, Pages: 304
Fiction | Literary Fiction | Humor | Holocaust
THE BOOK JACKET:

The rural town of Stockton, New York, is famous for nothing: no one was born there, no one died there, nothing of any historical import at all has ever happened there, which is why Solomon Kugel, like other urbanites fleeing their pasts and histories, decided to move his wife and young son there.

To begin again. To start anew. But it isn’t quite working out that way for Kugel…

His ailing mother stubbornly holds on to life, and won’t stop reminiscing about the Nazi concentration camps she never actually suffered through. To complicate matters further, some lunatic is burning down farmhouses just like the one Kugel bought, and when, one night, he discovers history—a living, breathing, thought-to-be-dead specimen of history—hiding upstairs in his attic, bad quickly becomes worse.

Hope: A Tragedy is a hilarious and haunting examination of the burdens and abuse of history, propelled with unstoppable rhythm and filled with existential musings and mordant wit. It is a comic and compelling story of the hopeless longing to be free of those pasts that haunt our every present.

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THE REVIEWS:

 

Janet Maslin – New York Times
+

It’s a tall order for Mr. Auslander to raise an essentially comic novel to this level of moral contemplation. Yet “Hope: A Tragedy” succeeds shockingly well.

David L. Ulin – Los Angeles Times
~

What Auslander addresses is the fallacy of narrative — or its limitations, at any rate. Still, in the end, this remains the novel’s one abiding problem, that its narrative never fully resonates.

Keith Staskewicz – Entertainment Weekly
+

Taken as a whole, Hope: A Tragedy is like an unintentional bark of laughter at a funeral: an inappropriate, instinctive reaction to something perhaps too horrible to respond to in any other way.

Steve Stern – New York Times Sunday Book Review
+

A virtuoso humorist, and a brave one: beware Shalom Auslander; he will make you laugh until your heart breaks.

Publisher’s Weekly
+

As funny as it is, the novel is also a philosophical treatise [...]

Margaret Quamme – Columbus Dispatch
+

His challenges to popular pieties make the novel memorable yet revolting.

Adam Langer – San Francisco Chronicle
~

Indeed, “Hope: A Tragedy” winds up succeeding less as a powerful, unified and philosophically rigorous work of art than it does as a series of sporadically effective comic sketches.

Naomi Alderman – The Guardian
+

So don’t read it for the plot. But do read it. Because it’ll make you laugh out loud, because it’ll shock you. Because you’ll find yourself thinking about it for days and weeks afterwards.

Elizabeth Day – The Observer
+

It is to Auslander’s credit that he riffs expertly on the human condition while writing a book that is also uproariously funny.