BookBrowse Reviews The World To Come by Dara Horn

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The World To Come

by Dara Horn

The World To Come by Dara Horn X
The World To Come by Dara Horn
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2006, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2006, 320 pages

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Richly satisfying, utterly unique. Novel

From the book jacket: A million-dollar painting by Marc Chagall is stolen from a museum. The unlikely thief is Benjamin Ziskind, a thirty-year-old quiz-show writer. As Benjamin and his twin sister try to evade the police, they find themselves recalling their dead parents - the father who lost a leg in Vietnam, the mother who created children's books - and their stories about trust, loss, and betrayal.
What is true, what is fake, what does it mean? Eighty years before the theft, these questions haunted Chagall and the enigmatic Yiddish fabulist Der Nister ("The Hidden One"), teachers at a school for Jewish orphans. Both the painting and the questions will travel through time to shape the Ziskinds' futures. With astonishing grace and simplicity, Dara Horn interweaves a real art heist, history, biography, theology, and Yiddish literature. Richly satisfying, utterly unique, her novel opens the door to "the world to come" - not life after death, but the world we create through our actions right now.

Comment: Some books are amusing enough to read at the time, but lacking true substance, quickly fade from my mind. It's been some weeks since I finished The World to Come and I can safely say that this is not going to be one of those books! Dara Horn (author of In the Image, 2002) has produced a real gem of a book with a wealth of plots and sub-plots, packed full with everything from Yiddish folklore to Soviet politics. However, it is not a book that all will appreciate - I'm thinking here of readers who like their books to end neatly with all plot elements tidied up and put away. This is not such a book - without spoiling the plot, all I can say is the ending is in keeping with the Chagall painting at the center of the story!

Booklist and Publishers Weekly both give it starred reviews. Library Journal describes it as "intelligent, compelling literary fiction", while Kirkus Reviews complains that the over reliance on symbolism becomes unwieldy and the ending is 'confusing and corny' but nonetheless concludes that it is "an engrossing adventure, in spite of its flaws."

"A deeply satisfying literary mystery and a funny - sad meditation on how the past haunts the present - and how we haunt the future." - Time Magazine.

This review is from the January 18, 2006 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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