Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

I at first thought that this book might end up on my "books I gave up on" list. I gave it 50 pages or so, and wasn't sure how much more I was interested in reading. But then I picked it up again. And somehow, slowly, I was sucked into the story in a way that I was not expecting.
As a general rule I do not go out of my way to read mysteries. I am just not a big fan. This book is a murder mystery, but it does not really feel like one. The world that is created by Chabon is so interesting, and full of depth, as are his characters, that it doesn't even really matter what the story is about. The story takes place in Sitka, Alaska, but it is a fictional Sitka. The world of The Yiddish Policemen's Union is different from this one in that instead of resettling in Israel, the Jews ended up in this part of Alaska. But there is still the dream of returning to the Holy Land. That dream shapes the mystery as you go deeper into it.
The murder happens right at the start of the book, on the first or second page. Solving the murder becomes the main focus of the detective, Meyer Landsman. As we get to know Landsman, he endears himself to us, in his struggles to simply make it through the day. He is at a low point in his life, and this case is what he latches on to to drag himself back from the brink of depression. While reading, I really did forget that this was a murder mystery. I just wanted to read more about Landsman, about his world and his relationships. But the mystery part of it is unexpected, and very well done as well.
This book took some getting into, a little bit of effort to keep reading it. But once you find yourself captured, it is well worth the finish.

No comments: